The best weapons that you have at your disposal for fighting the risk of cardiovascular disease, is eating a healthy diet and exercising. The American Heart Association (AHA) provides certain recommendations for making lifestyle changes that will have a positive impact on your heart health. Following these AHA guidelines today, will give you the best chance of living a healthy tomorrow.
Heart Healthy Diet
When considering the value of your diet, it is always better to approach it with quality in mind rather than quantity. It doesn’t matter how much food you put into your body, your failure to consume the right foods deprives your body of many of the essential minerals and nutrients that it needs. Eating the wrong foods can lead to many problems such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, the increased risk of stroke, and many more.
The AHA provides guidelines of what a heart healthy diet consists of. Nutrient-rich foods are powerhouses for protein, vitamins, nutrients, minerals, and whole grains, yet they are lower in calories that other foods. If you’ve been eating an unhealthy diet for some time, it’s likely that you are carrying at least some extra weight as a result. Choosing to make a diet change now will help you to lower your weight, improve your blood pressure, and lower your cholesterol.
Eat a wide range of fruits and vegetables, legumes and nuts, dairy products that are low-fat, skinless poultry,skinless fish, whole grains, and vegetable oils (non-tropical only). The AHA recommends that you limit your intake of red meat, trans fat, saturated fat, sugar-laden foods and drinks, and sodium.
Heart-strengthening Physical Activity
Becoming more physically active is one of the best ways that you can strength your heart, prevent stroke and heart disease, and improve the overall health of your cardiovascular system. One of the simplest changes that you can make is to choose to walk more. Walk to the store rather than drive, or walk up the stairs rather than riding the elevator. It’s free, enjoyable, social, and a great form of exercise. Because it is so easy to commit to and do, it is also easy to stick with it.
The AHA recommends that you get a minimum of 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of more vigorous exercise, each week. That amounts to about 30 minutes per day for five days of the week, a fairly easy target to achieve. Focus on exercises that build the strength and endurance of the body, like walking, running, swimming, playing sports, and climbing stairs. Increase this goal to 40 minutes of moderate, to more intense, exercise 3-4 days per week, if you need to reduce your blood pressure or cholesterol.
There are always those people who complain that they won’t enjoy making a radical change to their diet or that they don’t have time to exercise. Everyone has to start somewhere, so if nothing else. Start small. That’s the beauty of the AHA guidelines, they are adaptable for your individual circumstances, and provide a reference for making positive changes for your heart health.