Your significant partner may have the key to your heart every day and especially on Valentine’s Day but proper diet and regular exercise is the key to having a healthy heart. Having a healthy heart has so many benefits and can impact your lifestyle, your happiness, your energy levels, your external appearance, and your longevity in life. These lockdowns may have put a block our activity levels but there are ways that you can overcome them. Indulge a little and read up on the 5 ways you can keep your heart healthy: What Types of Foods Are Good For The Heart, Gym Alternative Exercises, Tracking Your Physical Health, Managing Your Mental Health and lastly, Avoidance and Prevention.
What Types of Food Are Good For The Heart?
I’m sure growing up that you may have heard the saying “Have your 5 fruits and veggies a day”. While eating fruits and vegetables are an important aspect of maintaining a healthy diet, there are other foods that you can eat that add to building a healthy heart.
Fish (Omega 3s)
Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids which is necessary to maintain a healthy heart. According to the American Heart Association, eating two servings of fish a day is necessary to maintain a healthy heart. Fish can help lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attacks, and stroke. Fish doesn’t only have benefits for your heart but it benefits your brain functions and improves your vision. The best choices are fish high in omega-3s, such as salmon, mackeral, sardines, swordfish, tuna, cod, and pollock, but eating other varieties are a good source of lean proteins. The acroynm “SMASH” are the types of fish that are low in mercury (Salmon, Mackerel, Anchoives, Sardines and Herring).
I feel like nuts get a bad rap but they are great to snack on. I would recommend to eat unsalted nuts as salted nuts can add to high sodium levels which can result in high blood pressure. Eating nuts are good for your cardiovascular system. They can help to lower your cholesterol, your blood pressure, and help with weight control.
Gym Alternative Exercises
You can still have a great workout outside of the gym. I think that these series of lockdowns has taught us to adapt and be creative with training. One thing that has been a constant for me is going out for walks by the lake or somewhere with beautiful scenery. If you live in a building that has multiple floors, use the stairs instead. Climbing the stairs may seem like a chore but the movement is similar to lunges which will keep your heart healthy and train your legs. Other activities include:
- Snoeshoeing (winter hiking)
- HIIT workouts
- Home workouts
The most important thing is get moving and do something that keeps you active regularly to have a healthy heart.
Tracking Your Physical Health
Tracking your physical health regularly means going for regular check up with your doctor. I know that most people below 40 don’t usually go to the doctors for a check up on a yearly basis but I find that it’s an important factor that should be part of everyone’s life. It doesn’t matter if nothing is wrong with you but having a regular check up means that you know what is happening inside and outside of your body.
In conjunction with regular check ups, you can ask your doctor to check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. High blood pressure and cholesterol levels are two factors that can show whether your heart is healthy or unhealthy. These two factors can also have an affect on your weight too. You can keep these levels healthy by eating right and staying active.
Managing Your Mental Health
The mind and your body are not two separate components of person. Your mind can significantly impact your body and it’s paramount that you manage your mental health when it comes to maintaining a healthy heart. There is this saying that we use a lot in powerlifting “mind over matter” – the power of the mind has the ability to control and influence the body. Maintaining a healthy state of mind can lead to having a healthy heart. Here are some ways that you can do that:
- Reading a book – reading a book can take you away from reality and calm your mind. I find it extremely relaxing after a long day at work in front of multiple computer screens.
- Meditating – there are so many different ways that people meditate, whether it is with an app like Headspace, reading meditation books that help you find clarity etc. Some of the health benefits of this includes a better sleep cycle, improvements in your metabolism, happiness and your immune system.
- Taking short breaks throughout the day – the 90/20 rule is a method that asks you to spend no more than 90 minutes working on a task, and then taking a 20 minute break to decompress and relax before starting another task. With work and home being in the same space, I have found this method very helpful in breaking up my day.
- Sleeping well – sleep is one of the most underrated factors in both health and fitness. Sleep is when our bodies recover and repairs itself whether it is from training and/or illness. It has an impact on how our brains function and on our heart health. We should aim to get at least 6-9 hours of sleep a night. The optimal amount varies from person to person but having a regular bedtime and wake up time can help keep your heart healthy.
Avoidance and Prevention
Smoking. We all know that smoking can kill and it is one of the causes of heart problems. By refusing to smoke or removing yourself from situations where you can inhale secondhand smoke can save your heart and lungs from the risk of deterioration
Overall, our hearts is the muscle that continously keeps our internal organs going. Our environment and the way in which we live have an impact on its health. Aim to eat more fish high in omega-3s and snack on nuts, keep active by training in the gym or doing some of the gym alternative exercises shared above. Keep track of your physical health by going to regular check ups, manage your mental health by reading, taking breaks, fresh air, or meditating. Lastly, avoid inhaling smoke whether you are a smoker or around people that smoke that can cause you to inhale secondhand smoke. There is so much that we can do to maintain and improve the health of our hearts.