Start small for big changes in heart health.
Have you ever wanted to make a positive change in your health, but didn’t because you couldn’t imagine making the change? For example, maybe you think you need to exercise more but can’t imagine going to the gym for 90 minutes a day. Or maybe you want to give up all the foods you love for fish and broccoli, and that sounds like limp sadness to you.
Maybe you’ve been to the doctor recently and are dealing with one or more pending threats to the safety of your heart. You want to treat your heart better, but the thought of a major lifestyle overhaul is intimidating.
It turns out big changes are overrated (for so many reasons). The research shows that small changes and micro-habits are more powerful, effective, and lasting than big ones.
There are many reasons why heart health should be a priority. You may be familiar with the following statistics about heart health.
- Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States and affects most racial and ethnic groups.
- One person dies every 37 seconds in the United States from cardiovascular disease.
- About 647,000 Americans die from heart disease each year—that’s one in every four deaths.
- Coronary heart disease is the most common type of heart disease, killing 365,914 people in 2017.
- In the United States, someone has a heart attack every 40 seconds.
- Every year, about 805,000 Americans have a heart attack.
- About one in five heart attacks is silent—the damage is done, but the person is not aware of it.
Consider these surprisingly easy ways of improving your heart health. Don’t wait for big changes to happen. Start small.
1. Five Minutes of Exercise a Day
You don’t have to stay in cardio for hours in order to strengthen your heart and improve circulation. In fact, research shows you only need to do 30 minutes of cardio to burn fat. The magic of HIIT (high-intensity interval training) means you not only burn calories during your workout, but you continue to burn energy after you’ve finished your workout.. And though high-intensity interval training may sound intimidating, it’s actually easier than traditional cardio workouts. If you boost your heart rate for even 30 seconds through one simple exercise, it strengthens your heart.
The HIIT method boosts your heart rate for 30 seconds at a time with 10 seconds or more of rest. Repeating this cycle creates a workout that lasts for only a few minutes but results in a healthier heart.
There are many mobile apps that can guide you through these short workouts. Search “five minute HIIT workout” to try a few out.
As always, consult with your doctor before trying out a new fitness routine.
2. Take Steps to Manage Stress
Stress takes a toll on your heart. It may be that one of the most important things you can do for your heart is to learn to manage stress. When it comes to stress relief, what is effective for you is going to be unique to you, so take the time to experiment and tune into what works and what doesn’t.
For some, taking a walk in nature works. Others like to close their eyes and practice meditation for five or 10 minutes. Some individuals like yoga and working out—which include the added benefit of cardiovascular exercise. If you need to cut out activities or environments that bring you unneeded stress, definitely take steps to do so.
If your stress is primarily at work, research ways to reduce work environment stress. The good news is that most companies are aware that the negative effects of stress at the workplace is increasing, and support for change is easier to find.
3. Quit Smoking
Smoking is a huge negative for heart health. The best thing you can do for your heart is to quit today. This may not be as simple as some of the other ideas in this post, but it is nonetheless important. The CDC has many helpful tips, hotlines, and apps that can help you quit smoking, including a texting service.
4. Chocolate and Wine
It’s true! A bit of chocolate and wine can help your heart, according to UCI Health. If you manage to implement any of the ideas above, reward yourself. While there’s no need to go overboard, cocoa and moderate alcohol “have antioxidants that have been shown to increase good cholesterol, lower bad cholesterol and improve blood clotting function.”
Isn’t it wonderful that bettering your health doesn’t mean giving up everything you enjoy in life?
Add some spice to your morning latte or afternoon cup of tea by adding a teaspoon of turmeric! Turmeric also goes well in smoothies and shakes.
Turmeric contains a strong antioxidant called curcumin. Not just a health fad, curcumin has been researched by the NCBI for its benefits to the cardiovascular system. It has an impressive list of positive effects that have been studied by science—”anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, anti-carcinogenic, anti-thrombotic, and cardiovascular protective.” Wow! What an impressive heart-healthy mouthful!
To get even more curcumin in your diet than ingesting turmeric can give you, take a curcumin supplement, readily available at health food stores.
6. Oatmeal and Blueberries
One of the first diet changes you can make for your heart is to start making oatmeal your daily breakfast. It is a fiber-rich superfood that can lower bad cholesterol and help to keep arteries clear. Combine this superfood with another superfood by adding blueberries for their antioxidant properties, and you’ve made a little change that has a big payoff for your heart.
7. Dental Visits
Dentists are your number one line of defense in detecting, preventing, and curing periodontal disease.
Stay with us. We’re still talking about heart health.
It turns out that periodontal disease has been linked to almost every heart disease in the book. While the causation is not crystal clear, the link definitely is. There is a link between:
- Periodontitis and cardiovascular disease.
- Periodontitis and stroke.
- Bacteria in the mouth and endocarditis (a bacterial infection in the heart).
- Periodontitis and increased risk of a heart attack.
Though early detection and prevention is key when it comes to periodontitis, the methods used to treat periodontal disease are getting better and better, with increasingly effective treatments available. Work with your dentist to prevent and treat periodontal disease, knowing that by doing so, you may also be protecting your heart. It’s never too late to focus on your dental (and overall) health, so make an appointment with us today.