Your heart serves as the center of your entire cardiovascular system and plays a vital role in your daily functioning and long-term health. That is why maintaining a healthy heart is so paramount when it comes to living a healthy and active lifestyle. In the spirit of February, which is Healthy Heart Month, take the time to give a little love to your heart with these helpful tips!
Consistently performing cardiovascular exercise has a positive impact on your heart health in a variety of ways! It can help you reduce your body weight, decrease your risk of heart disease, lower your blood pressure, reduce your “bad” cholesterol (LDL) levels and raise your “good” cholesterol (HDL) levels.[i] Also, cardio is also one of the best ways to maintain a healthy weight which can boost your long-term heart health. All these reasons show why cardio is an awesome way to uphold your heart health! Just make sure to check with your physician or health care professional before starting a cardio exercise program.
Whether it comes from your favorite sitcom, watching hilarious cat videos online or reading the “funnies” in the back of the newspaper, laughter can be used to improve your heart health! In fact, did you know that a quality belly laugh can increase the rate that blood flows throughout your body by 20 percent![ii] After that type of increase in blood flow your muscles tend to relax and your blood pressure lowers.[iii] Add a little more laughter to your life for heart healthy benefits!
Yoga is well-known for its ability to improve flexibility and core strength, but did you know it can also improve your heart health? Yoga emphasizes controlled breathing techniques that can have serious benefits for your heart! Not all of the effects take long to kick in either. Even practicing yoga for a short amount of time (over two weeks) can help provide you with cardiovascular benefits![iv]
Sounds too good to be true, right? Well, believe it! Chocolate that uses cocoa as its primary ingredient has shown to help improve your cardiovascular health in a variety of ways. It can increase your vascular health, lower your blood pressure and even improve the blood flow to your brain. However, it is important to note that not all chocolates use cocoa as their primary ingredient and many variations sold in stores are highly processed and combine other, less healthy ingredients. However, as a rule of thumb dark chocolate typically has a higher cocoa content than milk chocolate and white chocolate does not have any cocoa in it at all![v][vi][vii] Eat a little cocoa based chocolate in moderation for heart-healthy benefits!
Keeping your sodium intake in check is vital to your heart health because it can help you maintain healthy blood pressure levels. However, despite the negative impact sodium can have on your health 89 percent of American adults are still consuming more than the recommended daily amount (2,300 milligrams).[viii] Sodium doesn’t just come from the salt shaker either; it can also be found in many processed foods in varied amounts. For example, a single bread slice can contain between 80 to 230 mg of sodium and just one frozen slice pizza can contain between 370 and 730 mg.[ix] Do your heart a favor and track your sodium intake for just a couple of days to make sure you are consuming a healthy amount.