By Dr Reginald Liew
One of the most common answers a doctor will give you on any health-related questions is this: Diet and exercise. The key to increasing your heart health is just that - eat better and work out. However, it can be hard to pick up a new exercise routine if you don’t know where to start. Similarly, changing the way you’ve been eating for years can be just as much of a challenge. We understand how difficult lifestyle changes can be, so we’ve put together a few simple things you can do to start improving your heart health.
Being stuck behind a desk all day or sitting on the couch for hours can cause all sorts of heart-related health problems. You don’t have to start running marathons to improve your heart health. Just getting up once an hour and walking around the house or office for a few minutes is a great place to start. You will increase blood flow to your body and brain, gain focus, and stretch, so you become less prone to muscle cramps and pain. It also gives your eyes a rest from staring at a screen, which can lead to eye strain and headaches.
Walking just 15 minutes twice a day can have an incredible impact on your heart. Health experts recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week so, if you take 15 minutes when you get up and 15 minutes when you get home from work every weekday, you’ve already at 150 minutes! You can even split up the time into 10-minute sessions, walking a little before work, 10 minutes on your lunch break, and 10 minutes after dinner. While 150 minutes seems like a lot, if you break it down into small sessions, you’ll have a healthier heart in no time.
You don’t have to spend a lot of time preparing breakfast to make it healthy. It can take hardly any time at all. Put a batch of overnight oats in the fridge at bedtime, add a handful of your favorite fruit in the morning, and you’re ready to start your day! If oats aren’t to your liking, you can choose lots of other heart-healthy breakfast items, like greek yogurt, whole grain toast or bagels, smoked salmon, or any kind of fruit.
Joining a gym or buying expensive workout equipment is a significant investment of both time and money. Rather than shell out tons of cash, use items you have at hand to get in quick workouts. When you follow the advice of step one (above), grab two thick books and use them as improvised hand weights. You can use sturdy office furniture as stabilizers to stretch, do wall sits, or desk pushups. Once you’ve gotten in the hang of these little workouts, you can decide if a gym membership or more advanced workout equipment is right for you.
We all get a little snackish from time to time, and there’s nothing wrong with indulging from time to time. But, if your go-to snack is high in empty calories or saturated fat, you aren’t doing your heart any favors. Instead of going for the candy bar or bag of pretzels, have a handful of heart-healthy nuts, like walnuts, pecans, pistachios, or almonds. These are tasty alternatives that are not only heart-healthy but also packed with protein, which will help better tide you over until mealtime.
This may seem like odd advice for heart health, but it is a handy preventative tool. Illnesses like the flu, covid-19, pneumonia, and other infections can be very hard on your heart. This is a fact for all people but is especially true for individuals with underlying health issues, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. Keep your hands clean - it will do your heart a favor and help prevent illness from spreading to others who may have compromised health.
Having a fancy latte or a soda with your lunch every once in a while is okay - just with every other good thing in life, moderation is key! If you’re continually downing cups of coffee or can’t get through the day without an energy drink or two, you may be harming your heart. Excess caffeine can cause several health problems. Ingesting too much sugar can cause you to gain weight and make losing weight more difficult. Giving up sugary drinks entirely can be challenging and even lead to caffeine withdrawal, so go slowly by starting with one less per day than you usually drink. Then, continue to reduce that number every week until your weekly total is just one or two.