Heart health is a growing issue in America and around the world. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America for both men and women. Thousands of people (and their families) are affected each and every day.
It’s such an important issue that there is an entire month dedicated to raising awareness about it. Fortunately, there are some factors that can tip us off to our level of risk as well as many things that we can do to improve our heart health!
Heart Health Risk Factors
There are certain risk factors that make it more likely for us to develop heart disease. Many of these risk factors are preventable or treatable. Here is a list of some risk factors that we can have some effect on.
According to the American Heart Association, “Cigarette smoking is the most important preventable cause of premature death in the United States. It accounts for more than 440,000 of the more than 2.4 million annual deaths.”
Smoking can lead to fatty buildup in arteries or a hardening of the arteries. Both of these health issues can lead to heart attack. Smoking could be one of the most difficult habits to give up, but with so many risks and health problems associated with this one habit, the health benefits of quitting are numerous.
Too Much Alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol is a risk factor for heart disease because it can raise your blood pressure, causing damage to your arteries. Alcohol also has the risk of raising your triglycerides, a type of cholesterol. Heavy drinking also has the potential to weaken your heart muscle, making it difficult for your heart to pump blood and do its job.
In addition to long-term heavy drinking, binge drinking can also lead to heart problems. Drinking too much alcohol in one period can dramatically change your blood pressure, causing heart palpitations and chest pains.
The Centers for Disease Control recommend that women drink no more than one drink daily and men no more than two drinks daily.
You might have heard that sitting is the new smoking. Too much sitting and inactivity can be pretty damaging to your health as a whole, and your heart is no exception. A sedentary lifestyle not only hurts your heart, it also increases your chances of acquiring other heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure, obesity, and high cholesterol.
Just like any other muscle in your body, your heart needs exercise to be strong and function well. But while weak biceps might not kill you, a weak heart could. That’s why it’s important to include cardio activity into your exercise routine. Cardio strengthens your heart which improves your overall heart health.
Two big risk factors when it comes to heart disease are high blood pressure and high cholesterol both of which are directly affected by your diet. A high-fat, high-sodium diet will increase your chances of developing these two dangerous health problems.
Getting your diet under control can seem intimidating, but like smoking, it’s one of those things that you have control over. Passing up convenience and fast foods and making your own food instead gives you control over how much fat, salt, and calories go into each meal.
Being overweight or obese puts you at major risk of heart disease. But what scientists are learning is that there is one type of fat that is more risky than others, and that’s belly fat. If you store fat in your belly and abdomen, you significantly increase your risk of heart disease compared to other common fat storage areas like your hips or thighs.
One study found that even people who aren’t considered overweight can be at risk if they store extra fat in their mid-section. Experts believe the reason for this higher than average risk is due to the fact that the fat in that area releases more toxins in close proximity to your vital organs, including your heart.
Heart Healthy Things That You Can Do
Luckily the risk factors listed above are preventable. You have complete control over what you eat, drink, and do, giving you complete control over your own health. Here are a few heart healthy things that you can do today for better health every day.
With the weather warming up for spring, now is the perfect time to get outside and get active! It’s not too hot and not too cold so there’s no bad weather to keep you cooped up inside.
I know what you’re thinking though: “Exercise is so boring!” If you think of exercise as boring or a chore or a punishment, then you’ll never enjoy it and you’ll quit. Getting active and staying active is the only way to create a lifelong healthy habit. And the only way that will ever happen is you have FUN!
Exercise is anything that will get your blood flowing. It can be:
- Playing Sports
If you want to try a more traditional workout that will also help you get real weight loss results try the IdealShape Up Challenge. It’s our free 12 week exercise and nutrition challenge that will show you just how fun and rewarding exercise can be!
In addition to getting active, cleaning up your diet is the other big piece to the heart health puzzle. You are what you eat, and what you put into your body will reflect in your health inside and out.
If healthy eating isn’t your strong suit, don’t worry: there are some simple and small steps that you can take. If you’re looking for something to jump start weight loss and a healthy eating lifestyle, we recommend meal replacement shakes like IdealShake. Meal replacement shakes are an easy and convenient way to promote healthy eating and weight loss.
The added benefit of IdealShake is that it makes a great smoothie base that you can add other heart healthy ingredients to. Smoothies are a great easy way to pack your meals with a variety of nutritious mix-ins.
Heart healthy smoothie mix-ins include:
- Alfalfa Sprouts
- Dark Chocolate
- Pomegranate Seeds (Arils)
- Pumpkin Seeds
- Sunflower Seeds
- Peanut Butter
- Lychee Fruit
The Heart Health Wrap Up
Your heart health is extremely important for a long, happy, and healthy life. Luckily there are things that you can do that make a real impact on your long-term heart health. Many of the risk factors are within your control. Getting active and eating a healthy diet can go a long way towards improving your own health.
IdealShake meal replacement shakes are a great way to lose weight and also incorporate heart healthy ingredients into your diet through smoothies. Try IdealShake today!