We know our health is the most important part of our lives but we often don’t realize how small, everyday things can affect it. While you might have a short-term fitness goal, leading a healthy lifestyle requires long-term goals which you work towards every day.
Your heart is one of the most vital organs that keeps blood flowing to other parts of your body to keep them working well. It is important to take care of your heart, to reduce your risk of diseases in the long term. Heart health needs more focus as cardiovascular diseases are one of the biggest health concerns worldwide, according to the WHO. Many of your everyday activities can impact your heart health, but you can make the choice to start changing what you do to reduce your risks. Here are five heart-healthy habits that you can start from today:
1. Increase fruits & veggies in your diet
How much fruits and vegetables do you eat in a day? If you have a sedentary lifestyle and you have less than 300g of vegetables and 100g of fruits daily, you’re eating less than the intake recommended by the National Institute of Nutrition guidelines. Fresh vegetables and fruits are rich in micronutrients - minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron and vitamins like vitamin C, folic acid, and vitamin A. You should also be aware that there isn’t any one type of fruit or vegetable that you should eat, the key is to consume a variety of fresh, colourful produce — red tomatoes, leafy greens, yellow or orange citrus fruits — all of which are rich in different types of nutrients. Fruits can also be a great replacement for desserts and help you avoid sugar.
Multiple studies have shown that increasing your intake of fruits and vegetables reduces your risk of cardiovascular diseases. One study observed that simply eating one fruit a day can reduce your risk by as much as 10%.
2. Include exercise in your daily routine
Globally, 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men don’t do enough physical activity to stay healthy, according to the 2020 fact sheet by the WHO. Physical inactivity has long been associated with an increased risk of heart diseases, so the more exercise you get, the lesser chances you’ll have of developing heart issues.
Based on the latest WHO guidelines, the minimum amount of weekly physical activity for adults between 18-64 is 2.5–5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity, 1.25–2.5 hours of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity, or a mix of both. Exercise that focuses on strengthening major muscle groups should also be done 2 or more days of the week. Making the time to exercise just for just half an hour every day is one of the best heart-healthy habits you can practice.
3. Start meditating
High stress for long periods of time can begin to physically affect your body, even without being noticeable. It can also increase the risks of cardiovascular diseases and heart attack. While there are many stress management techniques you can try out, meditation is one of the easiest ones that you can practice and start from today.
Meditation, besides being a great way to let go of stress, has been proven to have many health benefits including lowering your cortisol levels, blood pressure, and heart rate — all of which are amazing for your heart health. You can make meditation a part of your daily routine of heart-healthy habits by setting aside a few minutes in the morning, evening, or both.
4. Reduce sodium in your diet
You might know that doctors recommend having less salt if someone has high blood pressure. But are you aware that salt is just one of the many ways you might be consuming sodium? Sodium is also found in a variety of foods such as milk, eggs, and meat. It is particularly found in high quantities in processed foods like bread, biscuits, and chips and ingredients like soy sauce or stock cubes.
High sodium intake is not just linked with hypertension. Studies show that reducing your sodium intake can not only reduce your blood pressure but also reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases, stroke, and coronary heart diseases. Your ideal consumption of sodium should be less than 2g per day (5g per day of salt), as per the WHO.
5. Get 7 hours of sleep
If you sleep for less than seven hours a day, you might be sleep-deprived. The lack of sleep, besides putting you in a bad mood for the next morning, can lead to an increased risk of heart diseases. Adults need at least 7-9 hours of sleep, with older adults needing between 7-8 hours. However, in India, the percentage of sleep-deprived adults is high and it is estimated that around 33% might be suffering from insomnia, a disorder that makes it hard to fall asleep or stay asleep.
So, in case you’re not getting enough sleep, try sleeping early so you can get the proper hours of rest and look after your heart health.
These are just some of the simple heart-healthy habits that you can start including in your daily routine from today. This can help you make a difference in your life and you might even start seeing some benefits immediately in addition to preventing heart diseases in the long run. Apart from following these heart-healthy habits, also consider making changes that help you in the long run like switching to a heart-healthy diet and preparing your meals using cooking oil good for your heart.