Too often, we forget that the heart is the engine room of the human body and as such, needs to be properly maintained and taken care of in order for it to function properly. Just imagine pouring a shovel full of sand into the fuel tank of your car or mixing your car’s engine oil with some honey? What do you think will be the outcome? If we care so much about maintaining our vehicles and sparing no cost in ensuring that they are in good shape, why not our own bodies? How much more, the heart?
See, the heart is a very delicate organ and performs the most important job of pumping blood around our body 24/7 which helps keep us alive. So, if the heart is faulty, that means our health and by extension our life, is in danger. Today, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death especially in Nigeria but that doesn’t mean you have to accept it as your fate. True, certain risk factors such as age or sex or even the health history of your parents are beyond your control, but that doesn’t mean you cannot take certain measures to prevent a heart disease.
Here, let’s take a look at certain lifestyles where modifications can greatly improve your chance to having a healthy heart:
- Alcohol consumption
- Salt intake
- Stress control
Exercise for a Healthy Heart
If you have heart disease or at risk of having one, remaining inactive is the worst thing you can do. Lack of physical activity can lead to deteriorating heart disease, higher blood pressure, increasing weight, diabetes (another heart disease risk factor) among others. Getting as little as 30 minutes of light exercise on most days can have the following benefits:
- Reduce heart disease complications
- Lower your blood pressure
- Reduce your chances of stroke
- Lower your chances of developing other serious medical complications
Here are some examples of moderate and home suited exercises that you can engage in:
- Brisk walking
- Outdoor chores such as car washing, emptying the trash bin or even gardening
- Indoor chores such as washing your clothes or bed spread or even general house cleaning
However, it is advisable that you check with your doctor to know if there are certain activities that aren’t suitable for you.
Stress Control for Heart Health
How does stress affect your heart you might wonder? Here’s how:
- Emotional stress especially anger is a common heart attack “trigger.”
- Some people react to stress by indulging in unhealth habits such as consuming too much alcohol, over eating or smoking which are all harmful for your heart health.
Dealing with stress in healthy ways can accomplish great things for your heart which include protecting your heart, lowering your risk of heart disease complications, help keeping heart attacks at bay and help preventing repeated heart procedures.
You can manage stress in healthy ways by getting regular physical activity, developing close relationships with people who can support you and if you think you’ve got a lot of stress in your life, please don’t ignore it. Talk to someone about it.
Smoking and Your Heart
You’ve probably heard the saying “smokers are liable to die young” and that’s because smoking hurts your heart and blood vessels not forgetting the damage it does to your lungs. Nicotine from cigarettes constricts your blood vessels which causes your blood pressure to rise and makes your heart work harder. Smoking also lowers the amount of oxygen and increases the amount of poisonous carbon monoxide in your blood. Your heart ends up needing more oxygen but has less ability to get it thereby increasing the chances of having a heart attack.
When you smoke, it’s not only yourself you put at risk but others around you as well when they inhale second hand smoke. Smoking is not an easy habit to break free from but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to quit. If you’re persistent in your attempt to quit smoking, you’ll achieve success eventually and here’re some benefits of quitting:
- Your blood pressure will start to go down
- The oxygen levels in your blood will return to normal
- The carbon monoxide levels in your blood will return to normal and if you’re able to stay away from smoking, within a year, you’re likely to notice these advantages;
- Decrease in incidence of coughing
- Shortness of breathe will decrease
- Your breathing will improve and
- Your blood flow will improve as well
Overall, here’s what a heart-healthy lifestyle can do for you:
- Lower your blood pressure
- Lower your bad cholesterol and triglyceride (blood fat) levels
- Ease the stress on your heart
- Lower the risk of a heart attack
- Lower your risk of stroke
- Prolong your life