I’m a huge advocate for preventing heart disease and like many of you, I am constantly striving to live a healthier, happier life. Cholesterol levels, proper sleep, body fat and whether you smoke or not are a few of the things that significantly impact your wellbeing. Understanding your body and keeping healthy lifestyle habits go a long way in keeping heart disease away. One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to “eat right and exercise.” But what exactly does that mean?
80% of the Time Heart Disease Is Preventable
Heart disease can be prevented and although genetics play a role, your lifestyle, starting with your diet, is a huge factor in determining your health. Good nutrition not only affects your health but also contributes to your energy levels and overall wellbeing.
If you look up the term “eat right” in the dictionary, the definition is: “eat healthy foods.” Simple enough, right? Eating well doesn’t have to be complicated but it might take some research and planning.
A healthy diet should consist of foods that are high in fiber, vegetables, fruits, nuts, olive oil and good fats (omega 3’s). Many cardiologists recommend The Mediterranean Diet which can help prevent disease.
Eating well will also prevent your blood sugar levels from getting to high, which can lead to diabetes and heart disease. Even slightly high sugar levels can damage your heart. Make it a point to have your doctor check your blood sugar. You’re looking for a hemoglobin A1C level of less than 5.7.
According to the America Heart Association, with a few simple changes, you can make eating healthy your easiest habit:
- Limit – sugary drinks, sweets, fatty meats, and salty or highly processed foods
- Avoid – partially hydrogenated oils, tropical oils, and excessive calories
- Replace – highly processed foods with homemade or less-processed options
- Enjoy – a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups, especially fruits & veggies
- Keep – healthy habits even when you eat from home
As a busy mom and cardiologist, I’ve found it extremely helpful to think about meals ahead of time and map out a plan for the week. That way I’m not reaching for the nearest thing (usually unhealthy) when I’m hungry or on the go. Check out this list of foods that can help you stay heart healthy.
Of the many things you can do to prevent heart disease, one of the most important is to maintain healthy weight and body fat. One way to do this is by eating a healthy, nutritious diet.
Put Yourself First With Exercise
Exercise is by far the best medication. In addition to healthy food, it’s critical to build movement into your life. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. That sounds like a lot, but it’s only 30 minutes a day for 5 days during the week.
Exercise not only helps with your weight and body fat, it can also boost your energy levels, mood, even your sex life. Regular exercise:
- Controls Weight
- Fights health conditions and diseases
- Improves Mood
- Boosts Energy
- Promotes Better Sleep
- Puts the spark back into your sex life
- Can be fun … and social (Or fun and you can do it alone!)
Find Exercise That Doesn’t Feel Like Exercise
The key is to find something enjoyable -- something you actually like to do. I love my stationary bike. Biking outside isn’t exactly my thing. When I go outside, it’s with my son and more for fun, than exercise (but it still counts!).
Some people get up every morning and go for a run. That's also not me. I’m lucky to get up, get dressed, get my son fed and off to school, then get myself to work. So morning exercise isn’t my thing, either.
But I started dancing when I was a little girl. At 3 years old, I took my first ballet class and I’ve been dancing my whole life. I found an awesome dance routine exercise -- the Anna Kaiser technique. I do it when I go home at night, on Zoom. And I love it. I think about it all day. I can't wait to do it.
So that's what I want you to do -- find something that you love, that you cannot wait to do. Find a way to move that you put on your schedule and look forward to because you get to do that thing that makes you healthy and makes you feel good.
Is it dancing? Is it riding a bike? Is it getting up at 6:00 a.m. and going for a run? It doesn't matter what it is, you just have to find something. You can build it into your workday -- if you have a conference call or meeting where you don’t have to talk or be on camera, listen in while you’re on a stationary bike or out for a walk.
Somebody recently said, “sitting the new smoking.” Think about it. Remember the days when smoking was the top thing that was going to cause you to die? It's time we think of sitting the same way. All day long, we're sitting -- in front of the computer, in our chairs, commuting.
The more you sit, the worse it is, believe it or not. It changes, your cholesterol and your ability to process sugars. You get fat, you get unhealthy, and it increases your risk of heart disease. You have to put yourself first and start moving.
Remember, 80% if the time it’s up to you. You can do this! I promise you. Just start, make a commitment to yourself, and then let the rest happen.
Photo Credit: RuslanDashinsky / E+ via Getty Images
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