Ever stopped to think about your heart? Honestly, it’s easy to overlook. It’s always there in the background. Pumping 60-100 times a minute. Nonstop. Every day. Let’s take a beat to acknowledge our incredible hearts and learn how we can better care for them.
While it’s easy to take your heart for granted, it’s important not to. Every 34 seconds, someone dies from heart disease in the United States (that’s roughly every other heartbeat!) making it the leading cause of death in our country.
“Some risk factors for heart disease cannot be controlled, such as your age or family history,” explains Dr. Rajesh Chintala, WellSpan Cardiology. “However, there are many small things you can work into your daily routine that can set you on a path for better heart health.”
Here are some little habits that can make a big difference:
Healthier food, happier heart
Choose heart-healthy foods like:
- Leafy greens
- Whole grains
- Protein-rich options, like fish, eggs and lean meat
Try to avoid:
- Foods high in sodium
- Foods high in saturated fat
- Added sugars
- Too much alcohol
Your heart hearts sleep
The American Heart Association added sleep to its heart health checklist in 2021. Over time, lack of sleep can lead to serious problems, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which contribute to heart disease.
Get more zzz’s by:
- Going to bed around the same time each night (Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep)
- Avoiding artificial light right before bed
- Soaking in natural light during the day (sneak in that scenic walk)
- Keeping your bedroom dark, cool, quiet (and cozy)
Work in a workout
The sweet spot is about two and a half hours of moderate activity a week. Things like brisk walking, swimming and cycling help maintain a healthy weight and can lower your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar.
Quit smoking for good
Nicotine, including electronic cigarettes, contributes to heart disease. Even if you don’t smoke, exposure to secondhand smoke can cause heart issues. Quitting now can reverse heart damage over time.
Know your numbers
Keeping an eye on your cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar and body mass index (BMI) is a game changer. It’s recommended that you get these checked at least once every two years. If you’re high-risk, your doctor may want to check more often.
Healthy cholesterol goal: Low Density Lipoproteins (LDL) should be lower than 100 for low-risk individuals, and less than 70 if you’re high-risk.
Too much cholesterol can build up plaque in your blood vessels. This sticky stuff narrows and hardens arteries which can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Healthy blood pressure goal: 120/80 or less.
Blood pressure consists of two numbers. The top one (systolic) is how much pressure your blood puts against your arteries. The bottom one (diastolic) is how much pressure your heart puts against your arteries while resting between beats.
Healthy blood sugar goal: Less than 100 (On an empty stomach).
Blood sugar is what it sounds like: a measurement of the sugar in your blood, which comes from the food we eat.
Healthy BMI goal: 18.5-24.9
Excess weight (high BMI) is linked to higher cholesterol, which can cause high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease. You can calculate your IBM here.