3 Components of a Heart Healthy Lifestyle

3 Components of a Heart Healthy Lifestyle

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Its prevalence and severity cannot be overstated. Though there certainly are environmental and genetic factors at play, there are also key steps you can take to reduce your risk of heart disease. The three major components of a heart healthy lifestyle are diet, your exercise routine, and (perhaps surprisingly) your emotional state. In this article, we tackle each of these major areas, giving you important tips to help reduce your risk of heart disease.

Improve Your Diet

The most important factor of your diet is whether you can stick to it. If the food in your diet is unbearable to you, and you only follow it for a week before giving up, it's not the right diet for you. Having said that, here are four important guidelines to follow to ensure a heart healthy diet.

  1. Eat more fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables are packed with vitamins and minerals and relatively low in calories. This means that most of the energy from the food goes straight to powering your daily activities instead of being stored as triglycerides in your blood. There's no excuse for not eating more fruits: they taste great. On the other hand, many people (myself included) struggle with vegetables. But they can taste great if you put effort into the preparation. Below are a few great recipes to get you started.
  2. Select whole grains over white grains. This means whole wheat bread over white bread, brown rice over white rice, and even sweet potatoes over white potatoes. Whole grains are rich in fiber and other nutrients that help regulate blood pressure and maintain heart health.
  3. Get your fats from nuts and oils, not animals. This will automatically mean you get healthier fats and reduce your intake of cholesterol and other artery-clogging fats.
  4. Eat less salt. This will happen naturally if you follow the three recommendations above, but it is important enough to be mentioned on its own. Excessive intake of salt is a leading cause of hypertension, a leading cause of heart disease.

Ramp Up Your Fitness Routine

Every year, the recommendation for minimum time spent exercising per week increases. What's going on? Is it possible that you need more exercise in 2014 than in 2013? The fact is that every year researchers discover new benefits of exercising - so they keep recommending more! It burns calories, helps control your cholesterol levels, and it makes you look and feel better. As with diet, the worst exercise routine is one you can't sustain. Pick a type of exercise you enjoy and do it at least 30 minutes for five days a week. Better yet - pick an event, like a 5k or a Tough Mudder, set a goal for yourself, and train to meet it. This can be a great motivation.

Ditch The Stress

This is a tough one, but it's sure to help. Managing stress will help you avoid smoking and overeating, and may even have a direct effect on your cholesterol levels and blood pressure. I know I don't like to be told how to behave, but when managing stress, people's inclinations are not always on the mark - because they're stressed! Here's a table of good and bad ways to respond to stress.

Bad Ways Overeating
Drinking alcohol
Smoking
Work too hard without achieving much
Good Ways Relax - work shouldn't rule your life
Exercise
Hang out with friends
Solve your problem

Recipes

Sauteed Zucchini
 

Sauteed Zucchini: see the full recipe here.

Green Beans With Pistachio Pesto
 

Green Beans with Pistachio Pesto: see the full recipe here.

Simple Cauliflower
 

Simple Cauliflower: see the full recipe here.


CATEGORIES: Fitness, Hypertension , Alternative-health, Healthy-food, Mental-health, Heart-health