Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women in the United States. Practicing proper heart health care can seem scary and challenging, but it doesn’t have to be.
World Heart Day is September 29th, and it’s just as good a time as any to take action and make some easy changes now! Take matters into your own hands and educate yourself with some simple tips.
Eat Smart for Your Heart
Changing your diet is one of the easiest and most important ways to get heart healthy. Throw away the fried foods and sweets and opt for some of these alternate choices:
- Eat fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Dark green, orange, and yellow fruits and vegetables are particularly nutritious. Try spinach, carrots, peaches and berries.
- Opt for foods that are low in saturated and trans fats. Lean meats and non-fat and low-fat dairy products are great options
- Limit your sodium intake.
- Try fish and other foods high in omega-3 fatty acids.
- Avoid food and drinks with added sugar.
- Use canola or olive oil instead of butter when cooking.
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Women should stick to one standard size drink a day, while men shouldn’t drink more than two.
- Choose heart healthy foods even when you’re at a restaurant.
Walk Your Way to a Healthy Heart
Walking is extremely beneficial to heart health. Physical activity helps with blood circulation throughout your body, sending oxygen and nutrients to your organs. Exercise increases your heart rate and strengthens your heart. Walking is a great way to decrease body fat and improve your cholesterol and blood sugar levels. However, there are a few things to consider before you begin a new regimen:
- See a doctor before starting a new exercise program.
- Start out slow. Aim to walk for 30 minutes a day for five days a week.
- Begin your walk with a warm-up and build to a faster pace during the peak of your walk. Allow time for a cooldown at the end.
- Find a support system of friends, family, or a walking group. Talking and laughing while you walk can make exercising a lot more enjoyable.
- Count your steps! There are several pedometers and phone apps that can track your progress. Set attainable step goals and gradually increase them when they become easier to reach.
- Take your dog on a longer walk than usual.
Don’t Give Up – You Can Do It!
Changing your routine is a hard thing to do, but with a good support system and setting some attainable goals, your heart health can benefit greatly. Simply eating right and getting moderate physical activity on a regular basis can make a world of a difference. It can be easy to get discouraged, but don’t give up! You are making positive changes even if you can’t see them yet. You can do it—you know it in your heart.
For more information about heart health, visit Capital Health Plans’ Healthwise® Knowledgebase at capitalhealth.com.
Suma Dondapati, MD, is an internal medicine physician at Capital Health Plan and is passionate about preventive care.