5 Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy

by Terry Kozmor

Did you know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States? According to the CDC, about 600,000 Americans die from heart disease every year—that’s 1 of every 4 deaths.

That is a scary number. But it’s one that we need to be aware of and certainly one that we can be proactive about.

There are many dedicated heart resources out there, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the NIH: National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the American Heart Association, and the Cardiovascular Research Network. Each of these groups has informative websites and additional resources to promote and educate people about heart health.

There are many factors that contribute to one’s heart health; while some are out of our control (i.e. family history and biological conditions), many are within our control. Here are five ways you can improve your heart health:

  1. Nutrition: What we put in to our bodies on a daily basis is one of the most important pieces of the health puzzle, especially relating to our heart. A balanced diet of lean protein, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains affects every single part of the body. Remember to limit (if not eliminate) sugar, alcohol, red meat, and processed foods. Hydration is also essential. A goal of 8 cups of water per day is a great place to start.
  2. Exercise: As a full-time personal trainer, I often see individuals who have high cholesterol, increased abdominal fat, and/or poor aerobic ability. All of these potentially harmful elements can be shifted by increasing exercise. While your goal should be to exercise every day for at least 30 minutes, every bit of movement helps. Whether that means walking your dog more often or attending a weekly spin class, exercise helps in so many ways, not least of all with heart health.
  3. Stress: Time and time again, we hear that stress is a leading factor of heart-related issues and decreases overall well-being. Most stress tends to come from jobs or home life, so it is important to do everything in your power to keep yourself in a positive, low-stress environment. Additionally, try doing a daily 10-minute meditation to help ground yourself and ease your thoughts. There are free apps that can help guide you. (Headspace, Buddify, Calm, Smiling Mind)
  4. Gut Health: Most people aren’t aware that about 80% of our immune system is found in the gut. Our gut health affects cognitive function, digestive condition, and heart health. A few easy ways to improve gut health are to base our diets on anti-inflammatory foods, take a daily probiotic, and regularly eat fermented foods. These small changes in your diet will lead to big changes in your gut, head, and heart.
  5. Sleep: Sleep seems to be the glue that holds everything together. When you get at least eight hours of sleep per night, you tend to have more energy to exercise. When you exercise and release endorphins, you naturally feel less stressed. When you are less stressed, you make better food choices. When you make better food choices, you have better gut health. See the cycle forming here?

In conclusion, we can all agree that there are areas within our lives that we can improve upon to help support our heart health. Maybe that means turning the lights out an hour earlier every night or swapping out sandwiches for salads during lunch. It could even mean dedicating the first five minutes of being awake to a quiet meditation practice. Whatever that opportunity may be, I encourage you to find it. Identify where, in your own life, you can make a positive change to help you live a longer, healthier life.

About the Author

Photo: Terry Kozmor

Terry Kozmor has been in the health and wellness industry for more than 15 years. After graduating from Northeastern University with a degree in exercise science, he began his career in fitness. In addition to being Ixcela’s fitness expert, Terry is also the Director of Fitness at Lynx Fitness Club in Boston, Mass., where he oversees a group of specialized personal trainers, group fitness instructors, and nutritionists. He is an avid athlete himself and you can often find him outside snowboarding, surfing, or hiking.

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