Strokes kill more than 133,000 Americans annually. In fact, each year about as many Americans have a stroke as a heart attack. May was Stroke Awareness Month, where the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association teamed up to educate and spread awareness in hopes of decreasing the amount of strokes. Now that May is over, it is important to continue putting a focus on a heart healthy lifestyle for the rest of the year – and our lives.
Studies show that 80% of strokes are preventable and the majority are treatable with proper care. The most controllable risk factor is to properly manage your blood pressure. The best way to treat high blood pressure is to eat the right foods, exercise regularly, and manage your stress. Special medicines can aide you in lowering your blood pressure as well.
Learn more as we discuss everyday healthy heart tips to keep your most important organ in tip-top shape!
Heart Healthy Tips: Food
We’ve all heard the common phrase, “you are what you eat” because it’s no secret that maintaining healthy organs begins with a healthy diet. Enjoying a variety of nutritious foods can keep your heart functioning properly. A heart healthy diet can help you maintain a healthy weight as well as manage your blood pressure and cholesterol. Making specific changes to your diet can help prevent heart disease. We suggest these 6 heart-healthy eating tips:
Eat Less Salt
Reducing your salt intake is good for regulating your blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 2300 milligrams a day, but an ideal limit of 1500 milligrams a day for adults to maintain heart health.
Limit Alcohol Intake
Aim to have no more than one to two drinks a day. Light drinking may help protect some from heart disease, but drinking in excess is not advised for an overall healthy lifestyle. Especially be wary if you are taking certain medications.
Control Your Portion Size
How much you eat is just as important as what you eat. Eat larger portions of low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods, like fruits and vegetables, and smaller portions of high-calorie, high-sodium foods, like refined, processed or fast foods.
Eat More Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of the essential vitamins and minerals you need to keep a healthy heart. They are low in calories, rich in dietary fiber and, like other plant-based foods, contain nutrients that help prevent cardiovascular disease.
Opt for Whole Grains
Whole grains contain fiber and other nutrients that help regulate blood pressure and heart health. Increase the amount of whole grains for a heart-healthy diet by making simple substitutions for refined grain products which choices like whole-grain farro, quinoa or barley.
Limit Unhealthy Fats
Replacing saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats can reduce your blood cholesterol and lower your risk of coronary artery disease. High blood cholesterol can lead to a buildup of plaques in your arteries, called atherosclerosis, which can increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
Heart Healthy Tips: Lifestyle
Taking care of your body can be simple with making the right lifestyle choices. From sleeping to getting active to being mindful to spending time with loved ones, having a healthy lifestyle and positive outlook on life can help set you up for a healthy heart. These 8 lifestyle tips are easy to follow and will have lasting effects on your overall health:
Get Enough Sleep
Getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night is important to overall heart health. Studies show that young and middle-age adults who slept 7 hours a night had less calcium in their arteries (an early sign of heart disease) than those who slept 5 hours or less or those who slept 9 hours or more.
One of the best ways to protect your heart is to be smoke free. Smoking damages the blood vessel walls that supply blood to your heart and other parts of your body. Smoking also increases the stiffness of the blood vessels, making it harder for them to expand and contract as needed. These changes to the arteries can cause a heart attack, stroke or angina. Smokers are 3 times more likely to have a stroke than nonsmokers.
Be Physically Active
Shoot for 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise, 5 days a week. It’s also important to sit less. Evidence shows that adults who sit less throughout the day have a lower risk of early death, particularly from heart disease. Sedentary behaviour is associated with an increased risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.
Relax and be Mindful
Managing your stress in a healthy way through meditation, yoga, or exercise is incredibly important. Find a stress relief method that works for you and use it regularly to keep both your sanity and your health in check.
Do What (and Be With People) You Love
Make it a point to do things that fill you with happiness and spend time with people you value. Talking, laughing, and spending time with loved ones is good for both your emotional health and your heart. Looking after your mental health is incredibly important because we know there can be a greater risk of heart disease for people who have depression, are socially isolated or do not have good social support. Having a good social life with family and friends can help.
Try Passive Heat Therapy
Considering high blood pressure is one of the leading causes of stroke, consistent infrared sauna use may be beneficial to your health by lowering your blood pressure. Clinical research has shown regular sauna sessions can help lower blood pressure, the chance of heart disease, and obesity.
Be Proactive in Disease Prevention
Millions of people don’t know that they are living with diabetes, which is incredibly risky because high blood sugar damages arteries over time, making heart disease more likely. It’s highly recommended to have your blood sugar tested by your doctor if you are 45 years old or older, pregnant, or overweight. If you have borderline high blood sugar, also known as prediabetes, take action now in order to turn things around.
Achieve and Maintain a Healthy Weight
Your body is primarily made up of water, protein, carbohydrates, fat, vitamins, and minerals. If you have too much fat, especially in your midsection, you’re at a higher risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Waist circumference and body mass index (BMI) are the recommended ways to estimate body fat. A “high-risk” waistline is more than 35 inches for women, more than 40 inches for men, and a BMI of 25+.
Strokes can occur at any age and are the #3 cause of death in women and #4 cause in men. Adopting a heart healthy diet and lifestyle may not eliminate your risk of stroke but will play a substantial role in decreasing your risk.