Below, Main Line Health clinicians offer tips on how to be heart healthy when you’re…
Exercising: If you’re primarily pumping iron at the gym, find a way to work in cardio exercise, too, like walking, running, swimming or biking. After all, there’s a reason it’s called ‘cardio.’
“150 minutes per week of moderate exercise can improve your blood circulation and cholesterol, as well as reduce your risk of stroke and help you control your weight and stress levels, which are also contributors to heart disease,” says Donald Ferrari, DO, Lankenau Heart Institute cardiologist at Paoli Hospital.
Kick off your cardio routine with 10-15 minute walks three times per day, and try to work up to a half hour of exercise five days per week.
Eating: They say you are what you eat, and your heart works the same way. Red meat and salty or sugary process foods can take their toll on your heart. Next time you’re hungry, reach for foods that contribute to a healthy heart, like potatoes, soy, almonds, salmon, black beans, and fresh herbs. And stay heart healthy in the kitchen, too.
“Instead of frying foods, grill, boil, or bake meats and steam vegetables. These methods don’t add additional fat,” says Rebecca Shenkman, MPH, RD, LDN of Bryn Mawr Hospital. “Choose fresh herbs and lemon juice to season food rather than salty mixtures from the grocery store shelves.”
Drinking: If you’re dedicated to eating healthy, you should be dedicated to drinking healthy, too. Excessive alcohol intake can cause high blood pressure and obesity, and increase your risk for stroke. Stick to the guidelines for alcohol intake to make sure you’re heart healthy with every sip.
Drinking alcohol is appropriate in moderation. Men shouldn’t have more than one to two drinks per day, and women should only have one. One drink is the equivalent of either 12 ounces of beer, 4 ounces of wine, and 1.5 ounces of other spirits.
Sleeping: That’s right; heart health is important even when you’re sleeping. Studies have shown that not getting enough sleep or poor quality of sleep on a regular basis can increase your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. Aim for eight hours of sleep each night, and turn off all electronic devices at least a half hour before bed to ensure you’ll have an easier time falling (and staying) asleep.
Working: Taking steps towards a heart-healthy lifestyle is great, as long as you’re not ignoring your heart for the 40 hours a week you spend in the office. You wouldn’t sit for eight hours straight any other day, so don’t do it during the week. Take short, frequent breaks to walk around or try doing a couple minutes of work standing up, like taking a phone call
In addition to the inactivity that comes with an office environment, consider the toll stress is taking on your heart.
“Managing your stress can decrease your risk for heart attack, but it can also improve your attitude and make you more positive in the long run,” says Irving Herling, MD, Lankenau Heart Institute cardiologist at Lankenau Medical Center.