The heart wants what the heart wants—and that includes being healthy as well. So after we protect the heart from emotional pain, here’s what we need to do to keep it in the pink of health, physically.
Never does an organ work as constantly, consistently, and persistently as does the heart. While the brain may choose to do a partial shutdown of itself and our bodies at night when we sleep, the heart has no such luck. Its monotonous existence is what keeps us alive and well. And its autonomy from the brain keeps it functioning for as long as we maintain its health and vitality. Frankly, taking care of the heart’s health is as easy—or as difficult—as taking care of our health. Remember, there is life till the time it stops beating—once it stutters, our life as we know it is at a definite risk of ending. So here are simple steps to do in order to make sure the heart remains as young as we are—and lasts us a healthy lifetime! Enough for us to live and it to love.
Keep Cholesterol Down
Cholesterol is a fatty substance that is found in the blood. While your body does need some amount of cholesterol to function at optimum, too much of a good thing is also bad. Too much cholesterol and triglycerides start to accumulate in the blood vessels and harden them. This, in turn, starts to choke off blood supply or even cause blood pressure to rise. Now, the cholesterol found in food is not what actually increases your blood cholesterol. Blood cholesterol increases due to unhealthy weight and an overall sedentary lifestyle. So to keep the cholesterol down, you have to exercise, and basically be a more active person. These are the dietary changes you can make though:
- Change your oils: Healthier fats are the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated (omega-3 and omega-6) fatty acids. These may increase your HDL (high-density lipoprotein)—AKA the good cholesterol. They also aid in decreasing and maintaining the levels of LDL (low-density lipoproteins)—the bad kind of cholesterol. Examples of monounsaturated fatty acids are avocados, almonds, cashews, and peanuts, as well as plant-based cooking oils like canola, olive, peanut, soybean, rice bran, sesame, and sunflower oils. For your dose of omega-3 and omega-6 containing polyunsaturated fatty acids, you need to include fish, tahini (sesame seed spread), linseed (flaxseed), chia seeds, soybean, sunflower, safflower, and canola oil, and margarine spreads made from these oils as well as pine nuts, walnuts, and Brazil nuts.
- Avoid saturated and trans fats: All the fat you see in animal products is mostly saturated—think chicken skin and meat fat. Choose to buy lean meat and reduce your intake of processed meat products such as salami and sausages. Replace butter with margarine spreads or even nut butter. Keep takeaway and junk food to a minimum. When buying packaged food like chips and snacks, avoid any products that list hydrogenated, hydrolyzed, or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil in the ingredients—these are pure trans fats. Pastries and packaged cakes and biscuits are big culprits too—avoid them as much as you can and try and stay away from full-fat dairy products too!
Optimum Blood Pressure Levels
Often when you go for an annual checkup, your blood pressure might surprise you by having shot up. You may feel a bit disgruntled with your body for having to give you no warnings but that’s just it! You cannot feel your blood pressure rise or fall for that matter—not much anyway. So the best thing is to keep it in check. How? By exercising and maintaining an active lifestyle; reducing alcohol, fatty, and salty foods; and by keeping that ballooning weight in check.
Mind The Sugar
Frankly, diabetes is no longer the silent killer it once was. It’s loud and clear that we as a generation are falling prey to a disease that’s easily avoidable in the first place. (While Type-1 Diabetes is an auto-immune disorder and cannot be “prevented” since the cause itself is yet unknown, pre-diabetes and Type-2 Diabetes is easily preventable by keeping your weight and waistline in check.) Unfortunately, diabetes is an epidemic we are spreading all by ourselves and passing down to generations to come. And we have only our lifestyle to blame for it—too many processed foods, too much added sugar, too little exercise, and too many kilos. To combat all that, remember to keep off processed foods, white foods, and sugary drinks!
Manage Your Vices: Cigarettes & Alcohol
To be honest, being smoke-free is one of the best things you can do for your heart. For its sake and yours, quit yesterday…Smoking raises your risk of getting a heart attack two times, and a stroke three times. Reason enough, right? No? Thing is, if you smoke, you’re four times more likely to die of heart disease (i.e., heart attack and stroke) and three times more likely to die from sudden cardiac death. As far as alcohol is concerned, two small drinks a day is fine. More than that and you are again increasing your risk of contracting heart disease—and more.
Eat Healthy Food
Fresh fruits, seasonal produce, vegetables, lean meats, fish, reduced-fat dairy, high GI carbs, and unprocessed food—that’s what makes for a healthy diet. You are what you eat, so eat with care. Keep the salt intake to a minimum and garnish with other spices and herbs for taste. Keep artificial sugar to a minimum, too—sweeten with fruits and honey instead.
Be Physically Active
Forget the gym and the Zumba or the belly-dancing classes. Forget the trackers and the fitness bands. What you truly need to do to be healthy is get into the habit of moving—walk the dog, cycle with the kids, choose stairs over escalators, play ball on weekends, go for hikes and treks or even nature walks. Clean the car, play Frisbee with the kids, organize the cupboards—just keep pottering about and health will soon be yours. Exercise the way you want, but exercise you must.
Finally, the heart does so much for you. The least you can do is to keep yourself happy. The heart needs to be free of stress –anxiety is perhaps as big a heart killer as is cholesterol and diabetes. Keep yourself busy and proactive—don’t let the work pile up or the relationships go awry. Spend time with the family and the kids and the pets. If you don’t have a pet, get one—it’s a proven stress buster (and may even lower your risk of heart attack). In fact, your pets and children can teach you a lot about busting stress if you let them.
Keep your heart happy, healthy, and healed from any sadness—and it will repay you by aiding you in living a happy, healthy life with youthful longevity.