The heart is a vital organ that pumps blood and oxygen around the body, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Over the course of the average lifetime, the heart will beat an astonishing 2.5 billion times, which is quite the accomplishment.
Learning how to keep your heart healthy and fit may help you to lead a longer, more fulfilled life. Neglecting the health of your heart however may lead to heart disease, the leading cause of death in the world, laying claim to Approximately 15 million fatalities every year.
Diet, Exercise and lifestyle are the main contributing factors to heart health. Keeping active and consuming enough of the right nutrients will put your heart in good steed to keep on working at its best. Certain lifestyle choices, such as smoking and drinking alcohol can have a negative effect on heart health.
Not looking after your heart is similar to not servicing your car. You might not see the effects immediately, but by overlooking the importance, something is likely to go wrong further down the line.
Heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions present themselves when fat, bad cholesterol, calcium and other substances build up in the arteries. The collective build-up of these substances in your arteries creates a substance called plaque. Excessive plaque build-up can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke.
The Best way to reduce plaque build-up is by decreasing the intake of bad fats and bad cholesterol (LDL), increasing the intake of good fats and good cholesterol (HDL) and by leading a healthy, active lifestyle without the bad smoking/drinking practices.
Good Food Habits For a Healthy Heart.
Diet plays a vital role in the overall health of the heart. It's not quite as simple as 'eat healthy and the heart health will follow', but there certain practices and nutritional guidelines you can adhere to.
When looking to eat for heart health, the first step is to match daily consumed calories to daily burnt calories (or less if you are looking to lose weight). By not eating calories in excess, your body will not be left with anything to store as fat, which has a negative effect on heart health.
Step 2 is focusing on making up those calories with the right foods. Eating a well-balanced diet that is both nutritionally dense and full of vitamins and minerals is imperative for the health of your heart. Monitoring LDL/HDL intake is important to avoidance of unnecessary plaque build-up in the arteries.
Foods for a healthy heart.
Whole-grains: Whole grains such as oats, brown rice and barley are full of dietary fibre which is thought to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood. Regular intake has been found to reduce the chance of developing heart disease by up to 22%.
Oily fish: Mackerel, salmon and trout are examples of oily fish that is loaded with healthy fats such as omega 3. Consuming oily fish is linked to the lowering of blood pressure and bad cholesterol, in turn reducing plaque build-up and the risk of heart disease.
Leafy vegetables: Green leafy veg are known for their vitamin, mineral and antioxidant density, often being regarded as 'superfoods'. Regularly eating greens such as Kale, spinach and cabbage can boost your vitamin K intake which can help to protect arteries and improve cell function. Incorporating more leafy greens in your diet can reduce the risk of heart disease by approximately 16%.
Berries: Most berries are full of antioxidants that help to protect the body from oxidative stress and inflammation, known to be leading causes of heart disease. Fresh, frozen, cooked or blended berries are a must-have for those looking to increase the health of their heart
Olive oil: People don't often regard oils as being healthy, especially not for your heart. However, olive oil is rich in monosaturated fats and is strongly associated with the improvement of heart health. Studies have shown that an above-average consumption of olive oil is associated with a 48% lower chance of dying from heart disease.
Dark chocolate: Cocoa is one of the most antioxidant and flavonoid dense foods available proven to promote heart health. Eating dark chocolate regularly can greatly decrease your chances of cardiovascular complications and heart disease.
Dark chocolate should always be eaten in moderation as it is usually accompanied by high amounts of refined sugars. Increased sugar intake is directly linked to weight gain, the leading cause of heart disease.
Other Good Lifestyle Habits To Try.
Eating a balanced diet consisting of the right foods is of course very important for maintaining a healthy heart, however, without following other healthy lifestyle habits you are abstaining from vital pieces of the puzzle.
Some habits you can add to your lifestyle to improve heart health :
- Reducing stress.
- Practicing mindfulness techniques such as yoga and meditation.
- Minimising alcohol intake and 'binge drinking'.
- Quitting smoking or not starting in the first place.
- Getting adequate amounts of good quality sleep.
- Partaking in plenty of activity/exercise.
Cardio vs Weights- Which Is Best For Heart Health?
Exercise is equally as important as diet in regard to heart health, but what is better; cardio, or weight lifting? A debate that is hard to pin a definitive answer to, but here are the facts:
Cardiovascular exercise for heart health.
Steadily paced cardiovascular exercise that keeps your heart rate elevated, serves the heart by improving LDL cholesterol, blood pressure and insulin sensitivity as well as expanding blood vessels which benefits the entire body.
Regularly performing cardiovascular exercise for prolonged periods of time is directly linked to the overall strengthening of the heart muscle.
Weight lifting for heart health.
Similar to cardiovascular, regularly partaking in weightlifting or strength-based exercises improves LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, insulin sensitivity, expands blood vessels and strengthens the heart.
However, weightlifting has the added bonus of specifically reducing the fat that sits around the heart, improving metabolic rate and increasing testosterone levels in men.
To label one type of exercise as better would be an assumption and misuse of information. To Benefit most from partaking in exercise it is strongly advised that you include both weight lifting and cardiovascular exercise in your regime.