Exercise is key to heart health because it stimulates the heart muscle into pumping blood throughout the body. When you exercise regularly, your heart grows stronger so that it can pump more blood with less strain. Exercise helps to improve cholesterol levels, improve healthy fat levels, reduce inflammation in the arteries, reduce weight, and keep blood vessels cleared and flexible so that blood can flow easier and normal blood pressure can be maintained.
The American Heart Association recommends that each person get at least 30 minutes of vigorous, moderately-intense exercise each day - otherwise known as cardiovascular exercise. Studies have found that people who exercise daily and maintain a relatively active lifestyle have a 45% less chance of developing heart disease than those who live a mostly sedentary lifestyle.
A heart-healthy diet is all about balance. High fiber foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and nuts are all beneficial to the heart because they help to remove plaque from the arteries, thus reducing cholesterol and lowering the risk of developing heart disease.
Omega-3's, especially those found in oily fish, are extremely healthy for the heart because they help to lower triglycerides, or blood fats. While some triglycerides are necessary for healthy blood and for providing the body with energy, blood that is high in triglycerides is not a good thing; This is because a high triglyceride content increases the chance of developing metabolic syndrome.
While it's obvious that high fat intake and blood fats are not good for you, don't lead yourself into believing that all fats are bad for your heart. There are actually many good fats that, when eaten in moderation, are necessary for a healthy heart! Good fats, or monounsaturated fats, include olive oil, canola oil, vegetable or nut oils, nuts, seeds, and avocados. These fats all help to lower bad cholesterol, and increase healthy cholesterol.
When it comes to meat, aim for skinless poultry or fish. Limit your red meat, which can contribute to heart disease. When skipping out on red meat isn't an option, try to eat only lean cuts with no more than 15% fat.
Additionally, it is important to limit your intake of saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, sweets, and sugary beverages, which may lead to a rise in blood pressure.
Weight gain can put a real toll on your heart, so it is important to try and maintain a healthy weight. Abdominal fat is often an indicator of an increased risk of developing heart disease, because it is linked to heart-threatening problems such as high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and increased triglycerides.
It is estimated that about 1/3 of Americans are obese, which is a serious gateway to other health conditions that may raise the risk of developing coronary artery disease and stroke. To be successful in losing weight and keeping your heart in a healthy state, combine our previous pieces of advice: Hit the gym more often and be mindful about your diet!