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4 Ways to Improve Your Heart Health

Although February is American Heart Month, taking care of your heart and improving your heart health should be a year-round goal. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States , killing roughly 700,000 people in 2020. And while the risk of heart disease can be genetic, there are many lifestyle factors that have an impact, including obesity, poor diet, physical inactivity, and cigarette and alcohol use.

If one of your goals for 2022 is improving your heart health, here are four manageable changes you can make to achieve it:

Make Movement a Priority

Being sedentary is actually one of the biggest contributors to chronic illness as we age. A study published in the Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise Journal found that physical inactivity and a sedentary lifestyle were leading factors in cardiovascular disease death in men. Luckily, these factors are within our control; promising yourself to move your body more often can help remove the risk that inactivity poses to your heart health.

By committing to just 30 minutes of walking every day, you can easily improve your heart health. Investing in a fitness tracker, such as a Fitbit or an Apple Watch, can help you keep track of your movement throughout the day, including how many steps you take. A fitness tracker increases your awareness of your physical activity and reminds you to take movement breaks throughout the day. As a bonus, include weight training in your exercise routine , as strength training also has proven health benefits for your heart.

Quit Smoking and Limit Alcohol Intake

Smoking cigarettes has long been known to have a negative impact on your health, and this is especially true when it comes to your heart. Smoking can increase your risk of heart attack, heart disease and stroke. Studies have found that cigarette smokers are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease than nonsmokers , which is a pretty compelling reason to quit smoking.

Heavy alcohol use can also have adverse effects on overall health, but experts at the World Heart Federation recently said that no amount of alcohol is good for heart health. Moderation is really the key to enjoying alcohol while also maintaining a heart-healthy lifestyle. If you’re concerned about your cardiovascular health, it’s recommended to not exceed more than one or two drinks per day.

Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet

Your diet is also a vital component in living a more heart-healthy lifestyle. The Cleveland Clinic recommends avoiding trans fats, which are often found in packaged goods, margarines and fried fast foods, and often are listed as partially hydrogenated oils. Instead, you can choose healthier fats that are naturally found in avocados, olive oil and nuts.

If you are looking to make serious changes to your diet this year, think about adopting the Mediterranean diet, which the Mayo Clinic considers to be one of the best heart-healthy diets to follow. The Mediterranean diet centers on eating fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, seafood, dairy, and poultry, making for a well-rounded diet that doesn’t feel too restrictive for those who struggle with their diet.

Get a Good Night’s Sleep (Every Night)

Sleep is an important part of maintaining an overall healthy lifestyle, especially in regard to heart health. According to the National Institutes of Health , sleep can help your cardiovascular system by helping heal and repair your heart and blood vessels, and lowering your risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.

In order to maximize the health benefits of a good night’s sleep, it is recommended that people age 65 and older get between seven to eight hours of sleep each night. Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention encourages every American to practice good sleep habits , such as being consistent about the time you are going to bed each night, removing all electronic devices from your room to help you relax, and avoiding caffeine, alcohol and large meals prior to your bedtime.

Hilary Young Author

Hilary Young is a writer dedicated to helping older Americans live healthier, more fulfilling lives. You can find her on Twitter as @hyoungcreative.

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