Heart health is one of the main concerns for both men and women in the United States.
Research shows us that diet and exercise play a major role in heart health (1), but how can we integrate these activities into our busy schedules?
Below are five ways to maintain your heart health today:
1.Avoid Trans Fats
This type of fat is the worst type to consume due to its harmful effect on heart health (2).
Unfortunately, avoiding trans fats isn’t as simple as it seems.
That’s because food companies are allowed to use the claim “contains 0 grams of trans fats” on the label as long as the product contains less than .5 grams of trans fat per serving.
Tip: Don’t be fooled by false advertising. Keep an eye out on the ingredient list for words such as “partially hydrogenated” or “hydrogenated” oils which are alternative words for saying that the product contains trans fats.
2. Address the Middle
Studies have found that individuals who have a higher amount of belly fat (also known as visceral fat) have a greater risk of heart disease (3).
Visceral fat surrounds the body's internal organs and can lead to a host of health issues, such as insulin resistance and high blood pressure (4).
Tip: Focus on reducing belly fat through healthy eating, getting enough sleep at night, managing stress, and exercising on a consistent basis.
3.Get Up and Move
Most people sit for around 10 hours each day. From answering work emails to eating dinner with family, most of our day involves sitting.
Unfortunately, all of this sitting is causing damage to our collective health.
Some experts are calling sitting the new "smoking" because of its negative impact on heart health, weight, mood, and our muscles and joints (5).
Tip: Incorporate more movement throughout the day by getting up and stretching every hour, get off the couch during commercial breaks, stand while talking on the telephone, or get a standing desk for work.
4. Surround Yourself with Positive People
As motivational speaker named Jim Rohn once said:
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.”
That means when you surround yourself with positive people, chances are, you will have a more positive outlook as well.
A positive outlook can help improve your eating habits, lower stress, and increase your sense of purpose. All of which can help improve your heart health.
In fact, one piece of research published in 2016 showed that having a positive outlook on life was a common trait amongst centurions, that is, people who have lived 100+ years (6).
Tip: Make a list of positive people in your life and aim to spend more time with them. Additionally, focus on following more positive people on social media, and unfollow those who are negative.
5. Manage Stress
We all have some type of stress in our lives, so it’s important to learn to manage it in a healthy way.
Too much stress can lead to an increase in blood pressure, an increase in insulin levels, weight gain, physical inactivity, and poor sleeping habits. All of which can take a toll on our heart health (7).
Tip: Find a way to manage stress. This could be physical activity, such as going on a walk or taking a bath; or it could be a mental activity, like writing in a journal or talking with a friend (8).
To maintain heart health it’s important to consume a nutrient-rich diet, incorporate daily movement, practice stress management techniques, and surround yourself with positivity.
If you aren't already, focus on incorporating at least one of these tips to support your heart health today.
1. Keep Your Heart Healthy. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Category/health-conditions-and-diseases/heart-health/keep-your-heart-healthy
2. Dhaka, V., Gulia, N., Ahlawat, K. S., & Khatkar, B. S. (2011, October). Trans fats-sources, health risks and alternative approach - A review. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3551118/
3. Belly fat in men: Why weight loss matters. (2019, June 13). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/mens-health/in-depth/belly-fat/art-20045685
4. TodayShow. (2012, August 27). Belly fat worse for your heart than obesity, study suggests. Retrieved from https://www.today.com/health/belly-fat-worse-your-heart-obesity-study-suggests-966373
5. Hamza Ali, special to C. N. B. C. (2014, August 25). Why your chair might be killing you. Retrieved from https://www.cnbc.com/2014/08/18/why-your-chair-might-be-killing-you.html
6. Schneiderman, N., Ironson, G., & Siegel, S. D. (2005). Stress and health: psychological, behavioral, and biological determinants. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2568977/
7. Schneiderman, N., Ironson, G., & Siegel, S. D. (2005). Stress and health: psychological, behavioral, and biological determinants. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2568977/
8. Stress and Heart Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/stress-and-heart-health