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The Way of the Mind: Diet and exercise for optimal cardiovascular health

Strong genetics it turns out aren’t enough to overcome a wrong lifestyle, not yet. Choosing to eat right and move more makes a big difference in keeping your heart pumping strongly.

What one selects for one’s plate goes a long way in determining the health of one’s cardiovascular system. High-sodium diets are one of the risks of elevating blood pressure levels. However, a reduction in the quantity of sodium has the effect of tending to lower blood pressure, an essential measure in the prevention of heart diseases.

It also matters which kinds of fats you include in your diet. Saturated and trans fats raise the bad, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol levels, while a diet low in these fats and high in unsaturated fats lowers the low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. High low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, also known as bad cholesterol, causes plaque buildup in one’s arteries, increasing the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Excessive weight also causes the heart to strain, hence “keeping a healthy weight is very important, and obesity will raise the risk of heart disease.”

Thus, to make your diet heart-healthy, focus on sources of lean protein, such as fish, chicken, and beans, containing less saturated fat and calories. Pile on fruits and vegetables that are fibrous and loaded with protective vitamins and minerals. The urge for something sweet can be met with fruits instead of calorie-packed desserts.

Include healthy unsaturated fats from avocados, nuts, and olive oil which lower LDL cholesterol. However, cut back on the saturated and trans fats found in processed food, and fried and baked items. Cut back salt to 2,300 milligrams or less a day, and drink at least eight to nine glasses of water.

Regular physical activity is equally important to staying healthy in your heart. “Exercise lowers the risk for heart disease, stroke, and other chronic diseases. It encourages smooth blood flow, preventing plaque accumulation and reducing risk of heart attack and stroke.”

Along with this, one can control blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar all significant contributors to the risk for heart disease. Plus, “regular exercise aids weight management, a major heart disease risk factor.” Reducing the risks of stroke, diabetes, and certain types of cancer are also additional benefits.

While any physical activity is better than none, some activities reap better cardiovascular benefits. Walking is an easy entry point while running has the individual cover a relatively more intense workout. Cycling is included as a low-impact exercise, while swimming helps one to increase cardiovascular fitness and flexibility, and dance helps one in coordination and balance improvement.

You just need activities that you enjoy doing so that you can maintain consistency. Seeking an appointment with the doctor to come up with an individualized plan of activity can help you to work out the very best level and goals for you.

What’s an ideal workout for a healthy heart then? The ideal workout that can be suggested for a healthy heart includes at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity, such as brisk walking, or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, such as running. Mixing both moderate and high-intensity bouts is also beneficial.

That being said, remember the muscle-strengthening activities for all major muscle groups that are performed on at least two days per week, in addition to the aerobic activities. Engaging in resistance activities, such as these, will enable you to lose even more weight by building muscle.

The Heart-Smart Equation
Consuming a healthy diet filled with heart-friendly whole foods, staying hydrated, maintaining a healthy weight, participating in regular aerobic activities, and incorporating strength exercises are the winning formulas in striving for optimal heart health.

And though genetics and aging are not under your control, guess what is? You have the choice to make thousands of daily lifestyle changes that have the potential of lowering heart disease risk in a big way; these range from adding more fruits and veggies into your diet to regular exercise to reducing sodium in your meals. Small changes add up to huge benefits for your hardworking heart. Truly, an ounce of prevention goes a long way in preserving this vital organ.

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