Having a healthy heart helps you feel great, and keeps your body functioning at optimum levels. Most people believe that maintaining your cardiovascular health requires frequent, time-consuming workouts, rigorous dietary changes, and vast amounts of supplements. While all of these can be beneficial, you do not need to exercise 7 days a week, eat a restricted diet, or take multiple daily supplements to have a strong, vigorous heart.
That is why we at KentuckyCare have written this article, to outline four easy ways to make your heart healthier. By following these simple steps, you can cultivate positive habits that will, over time, keep your heart and body in peak condition.
1. Exercise Regularly
Your exercise regimen does not have to be extreme and difficult, nor does it have to take multiple hours each day. Start by taking two or three ten-minute walks each day. Walking is a form of aerobic exercise, meaning it forces your heart to work harder, and allows it to grow stronger and more efficient over time. Even ten minutes of brisk walking raises your heart rate and increases its stamina. Some easy ways to sneak in extra steps each day are…
- Park farther from the door
- Take the stairs
- Eat your lunch off-campus and walk back to class
- Go for an after-dinner walk
Once regular walks are part of your daily routine, try adding in high-intensity interval training, (HIIT) classes, bicycle rides, or even swimming. These more rigorous exercises will work your heart muscle and increase its strength and endurance.
2. Mind Your Diet
You do not have to go on a full-fledged diet, but making small nutritional improvements will help immensely on your path to a healthier heart. Start by eating at home more. For added convenience, you can plan your meals ahead of time and make your grocery list according to the ingredients you will need. Look for recipes with lean meats and fresh vegetables. Add in healthy fats like avocado, olive oil, and nuts. Eating at home gives you control over what goes into your food, and allows you to take in appropriately-sized portions.
Make as many meal components ahead of time as possible. Rice, roasted veggies, shredded chicken, and ground beef all keep well in the refrigerator and can be reheated in minutes. If you do not like to cook ahead, try using a crock-pot, and prepare your evening meals as part of your morning routine. When everyone gets home, dinner will be hot and ready to serve.
Other healthy dietary habits you can cultivate include drinking more water, eating well-balanced snacks, and not snacking while watching TV, playing on your tablet, or other sedentary activities. At KentuckyCare, our medical care experts can help you draw up a nutritional plan that can help you stay nourished and energized while maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle. When visiting one of our local medical clinics in Kentucky, you can work with your physician to tailor your nutritional plan to your needs.
3. Get Plenty of Sleep
It is important to recognize the seriousness of sleep deprivation and its negative effects. Not getting the recommended 6-8 hours of sleep every night, you puts you at higher risk for cardiovascular and coronary heart diseases. Inflammation, high blood pressure, and chemical imbalances that result from sleep deprivation can all lead to serious heart disease.
Getting too little sleep can also weaken your immune system, and even increase your chances of developing diabetes. Diabetes can take a huge toll on your heart, and puts you at risk for hypertension, blood clots, stroke, and other dangerous conditions.
All of this can be prevented by following these steps, all of which are recommended by the caregivers at KentuckyCare:
Cut Down on Screen Time
Try to end your exposure to bright screens at least 2 hours before bedtime. Blue light from smart devices or televisions limits production of the sleep chemical, melatonin, which can interrupt natural sleep cycles.
Stick to a Schedule
Keep your bedtime and wake time consistent, even on weekends. Having a regular circadian rhythm makes it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep, and wake up on time.
Invest in Comfort
Buy a mattress that is comfortable to you, and invest in linens and pillows that help you relax and enjoy being in bed.
Keep Things Cool
Set your thermostat to a cooler temperature at bedtime. That way, your body will not have to work as hard to regulate its temperature while you are resting under the covers. This allows you to fall in to a deeper, more restorative sleep.
If you feel like you have tried everything, and your sleep still is not improving, contact a primary care doctor at KentuckyCare to discuss what the culprit could be, and how to ease your sleep troubles.
4. Stress Less
Stress comes with a myriad of negative psychological impacts, but strikes a heavy blow to your heart, as well. Stress can cause high blood pressure, loss of sleep, and damage to arterial lining. Cholesterol levels, hormone balance, and blood sugar levels are all negatively impacted by stress.
However, there are many ways to reduce your stress levels. One such way is by taking intermittent breaks throughout the day to clear your mind and refocus. Short walks are a relaxing way to exercise your heart and lower stress. Short meditation practices can help center you and remove negative energy and thoughts from your mind.
If you find that your stress is related to certain activities or commitments, try to gradually remove those from your calendar. Having more time to spend on things that you enjoy cuts down on stress immensely, and promotes better health for both your heart and your mind. If you have an obligation that you cannot remove from your schedule, try delegating tasks that you especially do not like or get frustrated easily by. Try to limit your commitment to only the tasks that are required of you, and limit the amount of time you spend on each one.
You can take steps to boost the health of your heart without making major lifestyle changes. And with the help of our providers at KentuckyCare, the commitment has never been easier or more affordable to make! Find a KentuckyCare family health center near you to schedule your annual visit. Contact us today by calling (866) 810-7602 to discuss your heart health, and ways to unlock its potential as the strong, powerful muscle it is meant to be!