By: Skylar Doege
Your heart is one of the most important organs in the human body; it is continuously pumping blood around your body through blood vessels keeping you alive. Not to freak you out or anything, but cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.Now why would you want to damage such a thing? To help you maintain a healthy life, especially a healthy heart, there are a five things to help improve it.
1. Ditch the Salt
Americans consume more than twice the American Heart Association’s recommended of 1,500 milligrams of sodium every day.
- Salt can cause damage to blood vessels and increase your risk of developing high blood sugar (hypertension).
- Too such sodium in your system can cause your body to retain water. It puts a burden on your heart, as well as your blood vessels.
- Having less salt may help you lower or avoid high blood pressure.
For optimal heart health, try to aim to have no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day; cutting back the salt will significantly improve blood pressure and heart health. This way, you are less likely to develop heart disease or have a stroke. Instead of using salt to sauce up your meal, use herbs and spices to add flavor to foods.
2. Lets Get Physical
Like any muscle in your body, the heart grows stronger with exercise. Research shows that running improves cardiovascular fitness by increasing the flexibility of your arteries. This helps boost blood flow to the heart, reducing the chances of atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries that could lead to a heart attack.
But you don’t need to be a kick-butt marathon runner to reap these heart-healthy benefits. The American Heart Association says as little as 30 minutes a day, five times a week, of aerobics exercise can reduce your risk of heart disease.
3. Pump Up the Volume
We already know that music can make us feel good, but did you also know it had been linked to lowering blood pressure? Listening to music can decrease blood pressure as well as your heart rate. But before you start blasting your iPod at the gym, know that not all music is created equal when it comes to heart health.
According to a study published in the journal Heart, what matters most is the tempo. Researchers noted that faster music can cause an increase in blood pressure and heart rate, white slower tempo music has a calming effect. A little Beethoven anyone?
4. Drizzle Some Olive Oil Please
I hope it’s not just me hearing all this fuss over olive oil! Olive oil is good for your heart. What you find in olive oil is a major antioxidant, DHPEA-EDA, that is found to protect red blood cells from damage. Cellular destruction is partly responsible for heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks.
To protect your precious heart, break out the extra virgin olive oil. You can cook different meals in olive oil, drizzle some on whole wheat pasta, or use it for a tasty salad vinaigrette.
5. Bring on the Chocolate!
Chocoholics, rejoice! According to a study from the University of Adelaide in Australia, dark chocolate (sorry milk chocolate lovers) may reduce blood pressure. That’s because cocoa contains antioxidant compounds called flavanols, which are responsible for the formation of nitric oxide in the body. Nitric oxide causes blood vessel walls to relax and open wider. The result? Lower blood pressure!
Daily consumption of dark chocolate has also been linked to lower incidents of heart attacks and stroke in people at high risk due to metabolic syndrome. Just enjoy a few small pieces to avoid racking up on those pesky calories.
With just a few choices to help you improve your heart, you can live a healthier and happier life. You can lower your chances of heart attacks, strokes, or any other heart problems so you keep getting up everyday and enjoying life with one step at a time.