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Maintaining a Healthy Heart for Valentine's Day

Maintaining a Healthy Heart for Valentine's Day

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With Valentine's Day right around the corner, many people are making plans to celebrate their love. Chocolates, red roses, and romantic dinners are a popular way to surprise that person who holds a special place in your heart. However, the best gift you can give to yourself and your significant other is having a healthy heart, to ensure that your love will last for the time to come.


It Is Never Too Early To Start

Being young is not an excuse for not taking care of your heart health. Like in most countries, the leading cause of death in the United States is heart disease, for both men and women [1]. This, alone, is a good reason to start developing healthy habits from a young age. Doing so will help you prevent conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes, which can take a toll on your health and decrease your life span.

Watch Your Diet

Without a doubt, we are what we eat. If you think of your body as a machine, then food is the fuel that keeps it going. Thus, just like you would take care of a machine, you must take care of your body by providing the best possible fuel. The American Heart Association recommends a diet of abundant fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes and non-tropical vegetable oils. It also recommends limiting saturated and trans-fats, sodium, red meat, sweets, and sugar-sweetened beverages [2].

One of the diets that checks all these boxes is the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan. This diet was published in the 1990s by the National Institute of Health and has been proven by many independent studies to improve heart health [3]. For example, one recent study in Brazil showed that participants with high adherence to the DASH eating plan had a 26% lower risk of hypertension [4]. Also, a systematic review published in the British Journal of Nutrition reported that the DASH diet was found to significantly reduce blood pressure and cholesterol levels in patients of multiple studies [5].

Stay Active

Another cornerstone of cardiovascular health is physical exercise. Doctors recommend practicing some sort of cardiovascular exercise 3 to 5 days a week. If this seems like too much, you can start working out 1 or 2 times a week and work your way up. Remember that habits are not made overnight and that some exercise is always better than no exercise at all. Staying active will help you maintain a healthy weight and increase your aerobic capacity.

Many studies have been done to determine the influence that cardiovascular exercise has on blood pressure and overall cardiovascular health. Some have shown that moderate to intense exercise performed 3-5 times per week lowers blood pressure by an average of 3.4/2.4 mmHg, resulting in fewer cases of heart failure in all ethnicities [6].

Avoid Smoking

Many people think that smoking only affects your lungs. However, cigarettes are harmful to many different organs and the heart is one of them. First of all, smoking increases your heart rate and, in some cases, can cause an irregular heart rhythm. Also, it has been reported that it affects artery walls, making them tighter. This, in turn, causes your blood pressure to rise. In the long run, they can increase the risk of strokes and heart attacks [7].

Relax

It’s easier said than done, but the fact remains that stress is a major part of everyday life. There is always something new to stress about, whether it be traffic, your career or family to name a few. Being under this constant pressure has negative effects on the body that can affect your health, and particularly your heart. It would be wise to find a healthy way to relieve this stress. Some people find relief in physical exercise, like jogging or swimming. Yoga is another great tool when trying to find a way to relax. An article in the American Heart Association by Dr. Glenn Levine proposes meditation as a way to reduce stress in patients and lower the risk of cardiovascular illnesses [8]. It is a safe and low-cost activity that could bring many health benefits to your life.

Try An Infrared Sauna

Have you have tried to get into a sauna before and couldn't bear how hot it was? Thankfully, nowadays there is another option: infrared saunas. These use infrared waves to transfer heat directly to your body without having to modify the air temperature as much as a traditional sauna would. Some studies have shown that infrared saunas can help with chronic problems such as high blood pressure by promoting blood vessel dilation; this, in turn, decreases overall cardiovascular risk. Infrared saunas can also help patients with congestive heart failure, where treatment is sometimes limited. There are also no reported side effects with infrared treatment, so why not consider implementing one in your daily today [9]?

Visit your doctor

And last, but certainly not least is an obvious piece of advice. One of the most important things to do to maintain a healthy heart is to go to your doctor for regular checkups. A doctor can determine cardiovascular risk on an individual basis and recommend any necessary lifestyle changes. It’s always important to consult with your doctor when determining what path would be the best to follow for maintaining a long-lasting, healthy heart.











Sources

[1] “Heart Disease Facts.” Cdc.gov, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm.

[2] (2017). “The American Heart Association Diet And Lifestyle Recommendations.” Heart.org, American Heart Association, Inc., 15 August 2017, https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/aha-diet-and-lifestyle-recommendations.

[3] Challa HJ, Tadi P, Uppaluri KR. (2019). “DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches To Stop Hypertension).” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnology Information, 15 May 2019, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK482514/.

[4] Francisco, S., Araújo, L., Griep, R., Chor, D., Molina, M., Mil, J., Bensenor, I., Matos, S., Barreto, S. and Giatti, L. (2020). “Adherence To The Dietary Approach To Stop Hypertension (DASH) And Hypertension Risk: Results Of The Longitudinal Study Of Adult Health (ELSA-Brasil).” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnology Information, 21 January 2020, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31959262.

[5] Siervo, M., Lara, J., Chowdhury, S., Ashor, A., Oggioni, C. and Mathers, J. (2015). “Effects Of The Dietary Approach To Stop Hypertension (DASH) Diet On Cardiovascular Risk Factors: A Systematic Review And Meta-Analysis.” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnology Information, 14 January 2015, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25430608.

[6] Nystoriak, M. and Bhatnagar, A. (2018). “Cardiovascular Effects And Benefits Of Exercise.” ncbi.nlm.nih.gov, National Center for Biotechnology Information, 28 September 2018, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30324108.

[7] “Smoking And Your Heart.” Texasheart.org,Texas Heart Institute, https://www.texasheart.org/heart-health/heart-information-center/topics/smoking-and-your-heart/.

[8] Levine, G., Lange, R., Bairey‐Merz, C., Davidson, R., Jamerson, K., Mehta, P., Michos, E., Norris, K., Ray, I., Saban, K., Shah, T., Stein, R. and Smith, S. (2017). “Meditation And Cardiovascular Risk Reduction.” Ahajournals.org,  American Heart Association, Inc., 28 September 2017, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/JAHA.117.002218

[9] Bauer, Brent A. “What Is An Infrared Sauna? Does It Have Health Benefits?” Mayoclinic.org, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/consumer-health/expert-answers/infrared-sauna/faq-20057954.


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