10 Tips for Better Heart Health!
As the song goes, “Love the one you’re with.” And the one you’re with all the time — your own heart — is one of the organs most impacted by smoking. Indeed, quitting is the single most important thing a smoker can do for their heart health. That’s because smokers are almost twice as likely to have a heart attack than nonsmokers.
The moment you quit, the risk to your heart health decreases significantly. But there’s so much more you can do. Improving the way you eat, sleep, work, and play can go a long way to re-stabilizing your heart health. Why not tackle one of the following tips each Monday for the next ten weeks?
- Raise your sleep IQ. A full night’s sleep — 7 to 9 hours — is essential to your heart health. Quality is important too; in one study, adults who reported good-quality sleep also had healthier arteries than those who didn’t sleep soundly. If you’re having trouble sleeping, talk to your doctor; you might want to participate in a sleep study to determine the cause.
- Move it, shake it. Anyway you want to. Your heart needs you to be active. At minimum, try aerobic exercise like walking for about 30 minutes, 5 days a week. Even a 10-minute walk is a great way to start the day. Gardening, housekeeping, taking the stairs, and walking the dog count, too.
- Keep your blood pressure in check. If your blood pressure gets too high, your heart has to pump harder and wears out faster. Besides getting your blood pressure checked every two years (or as often as your doctor advises), reduce your intake of salt and explore other spices to flavor your food!
- Defuse and de-stress. Mindful breathing, exercise like yoga, and other stress-reduction techniques may help you lower your blood pressure. For starters, check out the various stress-reducing meditations at DeStress Monday or learn to give yourself a face massage.
- Trash the bad fats. Declog your heart and arteries from dangerous plaque by ridding your diet of saturated fats (found in red meat, full-fat dairy products, and coconut and palm oils) and trans fats (found in fried and processed foods). Check labels for words like “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” — the bad stuff! Keep track of your cholesterol levels by visiting your doctor and having a blood test.
- Ditch the juice, grab the fruit. Too many calories and sugar for too little nutrition — sodas and fruit juices are best left on the grocery shelf. Instead, keep fresh fruit on your counter or desk for easy snacking.
- Cut down on the booze. Smoking and alcohol addiction go hand in hand. Once you stop drinking, curb the tendency to drink more by limiting yourself. Avoid places and events that serve alcohol and instead join health-oriented organizations like running or tennis clubs.
- Strategize your snacking. A heart-healthy diet starts the day off with lean protein, like an omelet with chopped vegetables or oatmeal with fruit. Snacking strategically mid- morning and mid-afternoon on a handful of almonds, carrot sticks with hummus, or a slice of reduced-fat cheese will keep you satisfied so you don’t overeat at meals. Nuts especially are good for heart health.
- Get a Quit Buddy. You can’t avoid stress entirely but having someone support you through your quit is worth all the gold in the world. Best is somebody who’s quit successfully. Find activities you can enjoy together, especially those that don’t involve being around other smokers.
- Grow your gratitude. Taking a moment each day to acknowledge your gratitude for the good things in your life is a strong way to tap into more positivity. Studies have shown that positive feelings have been linked to improved health, longer life, and greater well-being. Not to mention, doing something kind for someone just might make your heart smile.
How do you keep a healthy heart? Share your tips with other smokers on Facebook!