Just by incorporating some small habits in our day-to-day life, we can make a profound impact on the heart’s well-being.
Our daily choices matter more than we often realise, and when it comes to heart health, these choices can be transformative.
Small and consistent changes can significantly reduce the risk of heart diseases and help you maintain a strong and resilient heart throughout your life journey.
Here are some things that we can incorporate into our routine for better heart health.
Prioritise Physical Activity
Exercising regularly for at least 45 minutes is essential for a healthy heart. It is recommended to follow moderate-intensity aerobic exercise on most days of the week.
Activities like brisk walking, cycling, jogging, swimming, dancing, or small things like choosing to take the stairs instead of the lift and walking after meals can help:
strengthen your heart
lower blood pressure
maintain a healthy weight
increase HDL cholesterol levels in the blood
Avoid Processed Foods
Processed and fast foods are often packed with trans fats, saturated fats, excessive salt, and added sugars.
These items can wreak havoc on your heart. Limit the consumption of these foods and opt for whole, natural choices instead.
Practice Portion Control
No feasting. No fasting.
Portion control is very important for heart-healthy living. How much to eat is as important as what to eat.
Always use a small plate or bowl to control the portions and keep track of serving sizes.
Overeating can lead to obesity which is an independent risk factor for many heart diseases. Eating small, frequent, and fiber-rich meals helps control the appetite and keeps you satiated for longer periods of time.
Choose Healthy Fats
Not all fats are bad. Just the type is what matters the most.
Good fats help your body give you energy, protect the organs, support cell growth, keep bad cholesterol under control, and help absorb the fat-soluble vitamins in the body.
Always opt for MUFA (monounsaturated fatty acids), especially the omega-3 fatty acids, which provide an additional benefit to heart health. Examples of MUFA include olive oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, sesame oil, canola oil, etc.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is the most underrated yet most important aspect. Getting sound sleep is crucial for heart health.
According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, poor sleep can actually lead to unhealthy habits that can hurt the heart including higher stress levels, less motivation to be physically active, and unhealthy food choices.
Improper sleep can even lead to disturbance in the circadian rhythm.
Make Heart-Healthy Choices
A balanced diet is a key component of heart health. Focus on consuming plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, millet, lean proteins (both vegetarian and non veg protein sources like eggs) and good fats (like avocados, nuts, and seeds ).
Minimise your intake of saturated, trans fats, sugars, and excessive salt.
Chronic stress leads to high levels of cortisol that can lead to an increase in blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure.
These are the common risk factors for heart disease. Stress can also trigger the buildup of plaque in the arteries which can further lead to atherosclerosis.
Avoid Smoking & Alcohol
Both of these are strong risk factors for heart disease. They have an effect on the narrowing of the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the heart (coronary heart disease).
It also leads to dysfunction of the innermost layer of the cardiac cells called endothelium.
These small, everyday choices have a profound impact on our heart health. Our everyday habits harmonise to create a healthy heart and well-being.
All these are things that can be easily incorporated into our day-to-day lives and improve our heart health along with preventing heart diseases. A gentle reminder is that consistency is key.
(Avantii Deshpaande is a food science and nutrition expert with over 20 years of experience in the field. You can find her on Instagram at @nutritionist.avanti.)