Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US, and one person dies every 34 seconds due to heart disease and its complications.
While heart disease may be the leading cause of death, it’s also the most preventable. It’s essential that you learn tips on how to improve heart health quickly so you can reduce your risk of developing heart disease in the future.
Keep reading this guide to learn everything you need to know about heart disease and how to improve your heart health today!
Overview of Heart Disease
When you have heart disease, you have a condition that affects the function or structure of your heart.
Most of the time, when people think of heart disease, they think of it as only one condition. However, heart disease is a group of different heart conditions with different causes.
The types of heart disease are grouped together by how they affect your heart and include:
Coronary Artery Disease
Coronary artery disease is the hardening of the arteries. It occurs when your arteries are narrow or blocked by fatty plaque.
Heart arrhythmias happen when your heart beats too fast, too slow, or in a disorganized rhythm. Arrhythmias usually occur from conditions like high blood pressure, previous heart attacks, infections, or diabetes.
Structural Heart Disease
Structural heart diseases include valve problems and congenital heart defects from infection or injury. You can also get structural heart disease from conditions like hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which causes the heart muscle to thicken abnormally.
Finally, heart failure occurs when your heart becomes weakened or damaged and is unable to function normally, usually due to high blood pressure or a heart attack.
How to Improve Heart Health Quickly
Despite the seriousness of heart disease, there are small changes you can make to your lifestyle and diet that will result in immediate improvements to your heart health.
It’s best to start by making specific changes such as:
A huge part of having a healthy heart is reducing the overall stress in your life. When you’re less stressed, you not only decrease the anxiety you feel but lower your heart rate, too.
Sometimes this seems like an impossible task with all the daily responsibilities you have between work and family life, but there are simple changes you can make.
Incorporating some mindfulness techniques into your daily life is an excellent place to start. Mindfulness is being fully present with whatever you’re doing without reacting or feeling overwhelmed.
You can begin by taking a moment each morning to practice. Start with taking deep breaths, observe the moment for what it is, and let any reactions or judgments about how you feel pass by.
Start Exercising Daily
Remember your heart is a muscle, and exercise is necessary to keep it strong. Start slow and ensure you get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five times weekly.
If you haven’t had any exercise in a while, start with walking at a brisk pace every day. You’ll want to aim for at least 100 steps a minute to raise your heart rate into the aerobic zone, which is at least 50% of your maximum heart rate.
Quitting smoking is a huge step in caring for your heart. Cigarette chemicals increase your heart rate and blood pressure. They also increase your risk for coronary artery disease and arrhythmias.
Once you quit, your blood pressure and heart rate can decrease within 20 minutes after your last cigarette. Your heart’s blood flow can also improve after 2 to 3 weeks. If you stop smoking for a year, you’re half as likely to develop heart disease.
Limit Your Alcohol Consumption
It’s essential to be aware of how much alcohol you’re drinking regularly and take steps to reduce or eliminate it altogether.
Alcohol seriously affects your heart by increasing your chances of developing heart failure and cardiomyopathy.
Alcohol also increases your heart rate, and the more alcohol you drink regularly, the more your heart rate will increase. Eventually, you also put yourself at risk of developing a serious heart arrhythmia.
Take Care of Your Chronic Health Conditions
When you have chronic conditions like chronic kidney failure or diabetes, your heart has to work harder overall. With kidney failure, your heart has to pump harder to get blood to the kidneys.
Also, high blood sugar in diabetes can damage these blood vessels, preventing your heart from getting the oxygen and blood it needs.
In fact, most chronic illnesses put extra strain on your heart, so make sure you visit your doctor regularly and make preventative care a priority in your life.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight, even without any other health conditions, can lead to silent damage to your heart.
Your heart already has a lot of demands placed on it, and carrying around excess weight can cause actual heart muscle injury.
The longer you carry this excess weight, the more damage you cause to your heart, and eventually, you could end up with heart failure.
Try Meal Planning
Diet changes are hard to maintain long-term, so meal planning is a smart way to improve your diet over time.
With meal planning, you can put together your shopping list and ensure you include healthy foods in each meal. You can start incorporating more fruits and vegetables with each meal, and eventually, it will become a habit you’ll stick to.
You’ll also avoid stopping for fast food or making other unhealthy meal choices if you have a meal planned and ready to go for when you get home.
Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet
Eating a heart-healthy diet lowers your cholesterol and weight and reduces your risk of developing premature heart disease.
Once you’re aware of what foods to limit and what foods to eat more of, you’ll be well on your way to a healthier heart.
One of the first steps you need to take is controlling your portion size. You can do this easily if you:
- Use a smaller plate to control your portion sizes better
- Include more servings of fruit and vegetables on your plate
- Include smaller amounts of high calorie and high sodium foods
Also, be sure to measure your serving sizes. You can do this by measuring in cups, ounces, or pieces. For example, a serving of chicken or fish is about 2 to 3 ounces, or about the size of your fist.
Other steps to follow in a heart-healthy diet include:
Eat Plenty of Fruits and Vegetables
Fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants and nutrients that provide key heart health benefits such as reduced inflammation and improved blood vessel function.
In fact, if you eat at least ten servings of fruits and vegetables a day, you’ll reduce your risk of heart disease by at least 28%.
The fruits and vegetables with the most significant heart health benefits include:
- Citrus fruits
- Green leafy vegetables
It’s also a good idea to include yellow vegetables in your diet like carrots and peppers to achieve an overall balance.
Lower Your Daily Salt Intake
Too much sodium in your diet causes you to retain water, and as a result, your heart has to work much harder.
So, the next time you’re grocery shopping, make an effort to choose foods that have no salt added and avoid any foods that have over 400 milligrams of salt per serving.
Ideally, you’ll want to keep your total daily salt intake under 1,500 milligrams per day.
Eat the Right Types of Fats
Your first step to getting the right types of fats into your daily diet is eliminating the fats that are unhealthy for you.
You’ll want to reduce the saturated fats you eat as they cause plaque to build up in your arteries, leading to coronary artery disease. You should limit foods like butter, sausage, bacon, and other cured meats like salami.
Trans fats increase your risk of heart attacks and type 2 diabetes, so you’ll need to eliminate these types of fats from your diet as much as possible. You’ll find trans fats in many packaged food products, such as:
- Frozen pizzas
- Packaged baked goods like cakes and pies
- Microwave popcorn
- Fried foods
- Nondairy coffee creamers
You can now focus on loading your diet up with heart-healthy fats. Some of the best sources of protein you can have include lean meats like chicken and salmon, and also eggs and soy products.
Nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, and vegetable oil are also great additions to your meals.
Increase Your Fiber Intake
Including lots of fiber in your diet lowers your cholesterol levels and reduces your risk of coronary artery disease.
You’ll want to select foods with whole grains, which are a good source of fiber. Some great options include oatmeal, whole-grain pasta, and whole-grain bread.
Start Improving Your Heart Health Today
Now that you know how to improve heart health quickly, you can start making changes to your life today.
Remember, it takes some time to form new habits, but before you know it, your heart will be feeling the benefits of your new and improved lifestyle.
If you want to read more tips on how to be healthier, check out the rest of our blog today!