3 Heart Health Mistakes You Could Be Making Without Knowing It
February 1, 2018
February is American Heart Health Month, so it’s the perfect time to commit to getting heart heathy. We all know that we should take better care of our health, it’s just all too easy to put it lower on the priority list.
This could be a bigger issue than we’ve realized in the past. Heart health is obviously very important, but studies have shown that there’s actually a strong correlation between heart health and brain health.
One study in particular asked over 500 participants over the course of 30 years to follow a basic heart-heathy lifestyle. The participants who followed the lifestyle more closely, had less age-related brain shrinkage – larger brain volume (relative to head size) is associated with better health.
Furthermore, those who adopted a heart-healthy lifestyle at a younger age and stuck with it longer, had higher than average brain volume by the time the study concluded.
So, the key takeaway is: the sooner you start taking care of your heart, the healthier your brain could be in the long run.
The problem is, so many of us only have a loose grasp on what to do to keep our hearts healthy – exercise, eat well, get checkups. But what do these things actually mean?
Many of us may think that we’re taking steps to becoming heart healthy, but most of us don’t really know. Here are some of the most common heart health missteps.
Not exercising enough (or not doing the right kind of exercise) As always, check with your doctor before starting any kind of new exercise routine – especially if you already have a heart condition. It’s common for people with heart conditions to be wary of exercise, for the fear of overexerting an already weakened heart. But the key is to start small and strengthen your heart.
One type of exercise that many experts endorse is interval training. The premise is to engage in short bursts of intensity, followed by longer periods of lesser intensity. This will continuously raise and lower your heart rate, which will help improve vascular function.
Keep in mind, this is just one type of exercise, so if for some reason interval training isn’t a good option for you, shoot for any exercise that will engage the most muscles at once. Swimming, speed walking, or dancing are all good options.
Changing the wrong parts of your diet Some heart-healthy foods have gotten a bad rap. Fats and carbs, in particular, are still oftentimes unnecessarily avoided in a diet. Everyone has their own dietary needs, so maybe avoiding these foods is necessary for you, but for many of us there’s no need to cut them out entirely. Oat bran, for example, is carb-heavy but great for the heart. Studies have continuously shown that oat bran can lower cholesterol and is full of a soluble fiber – known to aid in heart health.
Walnuts, salmon, and avocados are all foods that could be misleading too. Nutrition labels would show each of these foods as being high in fat, but there are good fats and there are bad fats. The fats found in these foods, alpha linolenic acid (a form of omega-3 fatty acid) and monosaturated fats, have been linked to lowered cholesterol, lowered blood pressure, and overall heart health.
Not getting routine checks Preventative care is frequently overlooked, but it plays an important role in heart health. Every year, about 1 in 4 deaths in America are from heart disease. Furthermore, it’s estimated that about 200,000 of those deaths were preventable.
Depending on your family history, age, lifestyle, and any existing conditions you may have, you might need more frequent doctor visits. But at the least, everyone should get a yearly physical. We get it – no one likes going to the doctor, and oftentimes taking the first step towards improving your health is the hardest part.
Your health should never be at the bottom of your priority list, and the sooner you start making heart-healthy choices, the better. Park your car a little farther away, take the stairs, drink more water and less soda – it’s okay to start small, just start.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2015). Heart Disease Facts. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
LeWine, Howard. (2013, September 4). 200,000 Heart Disease, Stroke Deaths a Year are Preventable. Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/200000-heart-disease-stroke-deaths-a-year-are-preventable-201309046648
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