Cultivate a heart-healthy lifestyle

Cultivate a heart-healthy lifestyle

By Carrie Dunlea

The heart is a vital component of the human body that beats an average of 100,000 timer per day, pumping blood throughout your body, fueling every movement and thought.  

Taking care of this essential organ isn’t just about avoiding unhealthy habits; it’s also about actively engaging in beneficial activities on a daily basis that strengthen the heart and reduce your risk for heart disease and other conditions.

Here are some activities to boost your heart health:

• Aerobic/cardio exercise: This type of exercise is the foundation of heart health because it raises heart rate and gets the blood pumping throughout the body. Aerobic activity improves circulation, and over time it ensures the heart does not have to work as hard to pump blood, thus potentially lowering blood pressure. Also, aerobic exercise can reduce the risk for type 2 diabetes and can help those with diabetes to control blood glucose more readily. 

Aerobic exercises include brisk walking, running, swimming, cycling, playing tennis, and other activities that get the heart pumping. Aim for 30 minutes each day of moderate intensity cardio — for at least five days a week — to significantly improve your health.

• Resistance/weight training: Improving muscle mass while reducing body fat and excess weight are heart-healthy steps to take. Lifting weights, doing bodyweight exercises, or using resistance bands not only build muscle but help the Cardiovascular system and boost metabolism.

Strength training can be incorporated into a routine two to three days a week.

• Balance and flexibility exercises: A person may wonder what flexibility and balance has to do with heart health. While there isn’t a direct correlation to how the heart works, these types of activities will help reduce the risk of falls or injuries to muscles and joints while working out. Inactivity is dangerous for the heart, so ensuring that physical activity can continue is important. Flexibility and balance exercises keep the body limber and can be incorporated into daily workouts.

Stretching, tai chi, yoga and pilates can be included two or three times a week.

• Outdoor Adventures: There’s something inherently invigorating about spending time outdoors, surrounded by the beauty of nature. Whether it’s hiking through lush forests, kayaking on serene lakes, or cycling along scenic trails, outdoor adventures offer a perfect blend of physical activity and natural splendor. Being in nature reduces stress, boosts mood, and inspires a sense of wonder and awe—all of which contribute to a healthier heart and happier life.

• Meditation: Slowing down, performing deep-breathing exercises and meditation can reduce stress. That, in turn, can help prevent damage to the heart.

Strengthening the heart and maintaining its health involves various activities that can be incorporated into daily routines.  

• Healthy eating: The foods people eat can affect heart health. Opt for lean protein sources and foods that include healthy fats. Salmon, avocados and olives are some options. Balance these foods with whole grains that are full of fiber, which can help a person feel fuller longer. Fiber also is essential for preventing atherosclerosis, a condition that causes hardening of the arteries.

• Social connections: Your heart thrives not only on physical activity but also on meaningful connections with others. Spending time with friends and loved ones, sharing laughter and stories and nurturing supportive relationships are vital for heart health. 

Social interactions reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can negatively impact heart health and overall well-being. So, prioritize quality time with those who lift your spirits and fill your heart with love and joy. Whether it’s a cozy dinner with family or a game night with friends, cherish these moments of connection—they’re medicine for the soul and the heart.

Embrace these activities with open hearts and open minds, knowing that the greatest gift we can give ourselves is the gift of a healthy  heart.