This 5 Ways To Be Heart Smart post is sponsored by Omron. As always, all thought and opinions stated here are my own.
Heart disease is a silent killer. It’s the #1 leading cause of death in the United States. 1 in 4 deaths yearly are caused by heart disease, and if you’re overweight, sedentary or have hypertension this risk increases. Heart disease does not discriminate, it can happen to anyone. In fact, you may have heart disease and never know it. If anyone knows this best, it’s my mother.
In 2014, she had emergency surgery with six bypasses. While her blood pressure was slightly elevated, her cholesterol was good and she was overweight, her numbers were within what doctors deemed an acceptable range. Yet, according to the doctors who performed her surgery, she was a ticking time bomb.
Doctors explained the blockages were so bad she would have had a massive heart attack and died immediately. After two weeks in the hospital, months of cardiac therapy and a massive lifestyle overhaul, I’m sure she would tell you it was anything but easy and if she could go back, she would do things different.
My Mom isn’t the only one in our family who’s been affected by heart disease either. My Dad had a heart attack at 36, Grandpa had blockages in his neck, my Uncle had stints and my Aunt had a stroke at a young age. Heart disease and high cholesterol has affected both sides of the family so, my chances of developing heart disease is high which is why I try to be heart smart.
5 Ways To Be Heart Smart
Getting active is good for your heart! We often only think of exercise related to losing weight, but it’s much more than that. Aerobic activity challenges the heart and lungs, forcing them to work harder than at rest. Regular exercise increases your heart’s ability to work more efficiently at rest. This helps keep blood pressure down. Working out also increases HDL, or “good” cholesterol. This is the cholesterol that eats “bad” cholesterol known as LDL.
Whenever I don’t feel like working out, I think about what it’s doing for my heart and what my mother went through. That’s enough motivation to get me moving. Remember, being active can be as simple as parking farther away, or taking the stairs. Those little things add up!
If eating is something you struggle with, think about the extreme changes you will be forced to make with eating if you develop heart disease. Eating smart now does not have to mean carrots and celery sticks. Rather, being mindful of eating foods you love in moderation and watching portion sizes.
I think of it as adding to my diet. Add to yours by eating 1-2 servings of non-starchy green vegetables (garlic, onion, leafy greens, carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, etc.) at each meal, and increasing omega-3 rich foods (nuts, seeds, salmon, fish oil).
Monitor Your Cholesterol
Cholesterol is an indicator of how healthy your heart is. While I do not believe it shows the full picture of a healthy heart, it is still important to monitor. In my case, my LDL is higher due to family history but because I workout and eat smart my HDL is very high. I monitor this yearly with my doctor, and am doing whatever I can to avoid going on cholesterol meds, which are linked to the development of dementia and Alzheimer’s. I recently did a video in my private Facebook group on ways to naturally decrease cholesterol if you’re interested!
Stress is a silent killer, and it’s something I wish the medical community addressed more with their patients. Stress causes increased blood pressure and oxidation. Oxidation can contribute to plaque formation in arteries. While stress is a normal part of life, too much chronic stress can contribute to the development of heart disease. Unplugging and relaxing decreases stress. For me, stress management is something I need to work on. I’ve gotten better this year at shutting down, sleeping more and saying no to things that I know will overextend me.
Monitor Your Blood Pressure
Knowing your blood pressure numbers throughout the day can help you see a heart attack or stroke coming and take action to save your own life. Despite living a healthy lifestyle, I’m already struggling with high cholesterol which is why I’m Going for Zero!
I’m partnering with Omron to start monitoring my blood pressure daily using their blood pressure monitor, the EVOLV. Over the next 3 months I’ll be monitoring my blood pressure and reporting back to you each month what I’m discovering. I’m excited to get some insights into my heart health.
If you’re at high risk for heart disease or want to be more heart smart, I urge you to take action now. You only get one heart, and we often take it for granted. It’s never too late to be heart smart, so start now!
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