5 Hacks to Help Promote a Healthy Heart
There’s a huge issue going on in our country, and more people are dying from heart disease than ever before. Heart issues are killing young people—it’s no longer an issue we only have to worry about as we age.
If change doesn’t happen, these statistics and numbers will continue to rise. The good news? These are steps we all can take to help support a stronger and healthier heart and to help reduce the risk of heart disease.
Here are five ways you and your family can help promote a healthy heart.
#1 Keep Your Blood Pressure in Check
There’s a reason they call high blood pressure a silent killer. Untreated or even undiagnosed high blood pressure is a huge risk factor for heart disease, so keeping your blood pressure in check is going to be key.
You can check your blood pressure levels at home with an at-home blood pressure cuff, go to your routine wellness checks at your doctor’s office, or even have your blood pressure checked at your local pharmacy.
If you have high blood pressure, working with your doctor on a treatment plan is going to be key. Following a healthy diet and lifestyle is also important (keep reading to learn more about that).
#2 Keep Your Cholesterol & Triglyceride Levels Healthy
Maintaining healthy cholesterol and triglyceride levels is also important. Having high cholesterol can clog your arteries and increase your risk of a heart attack as well as heart disease.
Having high triglyceride levels (fat in your blood) can also put you at a higher risk of cardiovascular health issues.
You can have these levels checked with routine blood work, and make the necessary dietary and lifestyle changes needed if your levels are high, which we will cover next.
#3 Consume a Heart Healthy Diet
Diet is really going to be key when it comes to protecting your heart. Diet is huge for supporting healthy triglyceride and cholesterol levels and keeping your blood pressure in check. All of these are risk factors you can help control by making wholesome dietary choices.
Focus on eating as many whole foods as you can, and steer clear of packaged and processed foods. We really want to limit excess sodium (commonly found in freezer meals, processed, and fried foods), as well as excess sugar, trans, and hydrogenated fats.
A heart-healthy diet is full of the following foods:
- Dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, and collard greens—rich in antioxidants, and vitamin K, which has been found to help protect our arteries and help support proper blood clotting.
- Berries—may help reduce the risk of heart disease by reducing inflammation and protecting against oxidative stress. Try adding lots of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, and strawberries to your diet.
- Whole grains—ditch the processed and refined grains found in things like white bread, pasta, and pastries. Instead, stick to foods like quinoa, rolled oats, and buckwheat. These are all full of fiber, which may help support healthy cholesterol levels, and thus support a healthy heart.
- Avocados—avocados make a great heart-healthy fat choice. They are rich in monounsaturated fats, which have been found to help support healthy cholesterol levels. Try adding some avocado to your daily smoothies, add sliced avocado on top of a salad, or even snack on half of an avocado with a sprinkle of hemp seeds, and a drizzle of freshly squeezed lemon juice.
- Omega-3 Rich Foods—omega-3’s are notoriously known for their anti-inflammatory and heart health benefits. They are found in foods like fatty fish (salmon, sardines), as well as plant-based foods like walnuts, chia, flax, and hemp seeds. According to The American Heart Foundation, these fats help support healthy triglyceride levels, lower blood pressure, improve heart rhythm, and blood vessel function. Consider making these fats a regular part of your heart-healthy diet.
- Nuts & Seeds: Nuts like almonds, walnuts, and brazil nuts have been found to be a wonderful addition to a heart-healthy diet. Research shows that nuts may help lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and even help reduce inflammation. They make a great on-the-go snack option and can be paired with seeds like hemp, flax, and chia for an added omega-3 boost.
In addition to consuming many of these heart-healthy foods, there are also some foods you will want to stay away from.
Some of these foods include:
- Trans & hydrogenated fats—commonly found in things like margarine, fried foods, pastries, bread, and even some crackers.
- High Sodium Foods—such as freezer meals, chips, fast food.
- Sugary Foods—sodas, juice, candy, pastries, sugary cereal.
- Highly Processed Foods—fast food, packaged snacks, hot dogs, sausage.
#4 Stay Active
Staying active is not only beneficial for blood pressure, strengthening the heart, and supporting better circulation, but it can also help us maintain a healthy weight, a key part of supporting heart health.
Try adding some form of activity into your day to day life, even if it’s just a brisk walk! Staying active doesn’t mean you have to spend hours in the gym each day. A little movement goes a long way in showing our heart some love.
In fact, research shows that exercising 3-5 times per week for just a half-hour can reduce your stress levels while also lowering blood pressure and supporting a stronger and healthier heart.
#5 Reduce Stress & Focus on Better Quality Sleep
One of the not so commonly talked about ways to boost heart health is reducing stress and sleeping more. Stress can increase the risk of high blood pressure, so it’s something we need to be paying more attention to.
Strive to show yourself and your heart some love with a daily act of self-care, even if it just means spending ten minutes per day meditating, reading, or doing something that helps you recenter.
Sleep is also important, not only for stress reduction, but not getting enough sleep increases our risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity. All of these increase our risk of heart disease.
If you’re not getting 7-9 hours of sleep per night, it’s time to make sleep a priority. Try establishing an evening routine to help signal that it’s time for bed, and get your body ready for sleep. For many of us, this means turning electronics off at least an hour before bed, doing something calming, like reading, or meditating, and getting to bed earlier.