It’s almost impossible to watch TV or follow social media without someone telling us how to keep our heart healthy. Our grocery stores are filled with products screaming, “Buy me, I’m heart healthy.” Of course we all want to keep our hearts fit and functioning, but it’s not easy to know who or what to believe. A more credible source might be the American Heart Association who tells us about life’s essential 8 for heart health.
One: It Starts With Your Diet
Consume whole foods as much as possible like vegetables, fruits, lean protein, skinless chicken, and fish. Watch calories and eat smaller portions. Limit sweetened drinks and alcohol along with red and processed meats. Avoid trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils. Use olive oil for cooking.
Eating at home helps you control your diet. We know all this, now put it into practice for your heart’s sake.
Two: Stop Smoking
Did you know that smoking is linked to one-third of all deaths from heart disease and 90% of lung cancers? Cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and all other tobacco products contain toxic chemicals as do their smoke, vapors, and liquids. This is non-negotiable for heart health.
Ask your internal medicine physician for support to quit smoking.
Three: Get Enough Sleep
Restful sleep is important for heart health. Aim for 7 to 9 hours if you are an adult to promote healing, improve cognitive health, and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.
Four: Manage Your Weight
Burn more calories than you eat! That is the takeaway message.
- Control portions
- Stay active
- Know your body mass index. Optimal BMI is 25. You can check yours here.
- Refer back to diet.
Five: Be More Active
Aim for 150 minutes of moderate activity per week or 75 minutes of vigorous activity like running or swimming. Include muscle strengthening with resistance weight training. Walk more and find ways to move more at work and at home. Make activity a daily habit.
Six: Control Your Cholesterol
Cholesterol comes from the food that you eat and from your body. Some of it is good and some is bad. The good kind helps to keep the bad cholesterol from sticking to the walls of arteries. Ask your internal medicine provider to help you track your levels to improve heart health and prevent cardiovascular disease.
Seven: Manage Your Blood Sugar Levels
Glucose comes from the food we eat and turns it into energy. If the glucose (blood sugar) levels are too high, it can damage not only our heart, but our kidneys, eyes, and our nerves. Diabetes is the result. Have your glucose level checked regularly with a simple blood test.
Eight: Manage Blood Pressure
It is critical to keep your blood pressure numbers within an optimal range. Best is 120/80, and anything above is considered high blood pressure or hypertension. Low blood pressure can also be problematic.
The Silent Killer
Heart disease can be a silent killer. Sometimes you don’t know it’s killing you until it’s too late. This life’s essential 8 gives you a to do list to stay heart healthy and all are inter-connected.
Eat smart, move more, manage your weight, blood sugar, and blood pressure, stop smoking, control your cholesterol, and get more restful sleep.
Contact Internal Medicine Physicians of the North Shore to review areas of concern and to keep your cardiovascular health in check.