Matters of the heart

Matters of the heart

As Heart Awareness Month is upon us, Lauren Joubert looks at what it takes to live a heart-healthy life.

Blog_GoodHealthSep2016More than ever, the awareness around healthier living is being prioritised. People are becoming increasingly educated regarding the dangers of processed foods and the importance of daily exercise. Many are choosing to live cleaner, healthier lives. As much as daily exercise and eating that green salad will do wonders for your figure, let’s take a look at what you need to keep your heart happy.

Healthy family

All heart and body health begins at home. If you’re a parent, teaching your children healthy habits from infancy will help them carry these behaviours throughout their lives. By incorporating the following five concepts into your day-to-day life, you’re getting one step closer to ensuring the well-being of your ticker.

1. Thirty minutes of exercise a day will improve not only your health, but also your mood. So, whether it’s a brisk walk, playtime in the park or a workout session at the gym, make the time for your daily dose of heart-pumping activities.

Easy exercises

• Take a 30-minute walk around the neighbourhood

• Cycle with the kids

• Turn up the music and dance around the house

• Download cardio exercise apps and get everyone involved

• Get scrubbing and sweeping on a Saturday morning

2. Balanced meals are a must. Do not be afraid to eat carbs: unrefined carbs are essential for giving your body the energy it needs throughout the day. Make certain your meals incorporate lean protein, plenty of fruit, and veg and carbohydrates.

Superfoods for your heart

• Salmon for Omega 3

• Oats for fibre

• Blueberries for antioxidants

• Dark chocolate for anti-inflammatories

• Citrus fruits for vitamin C

• Green leafy veg for folates

3. Processed foods are high in sodium levels. They don’t give the body many of the nutrients it needs, and – apart from increasing your blood pressure – they can also mess with your energy levels, making you feel sluggish. Say goodbye to those ready-made meals and start enjoying cooking more meals together as a family.

4. Eating excess salt is a sure way to increase your blood pressure. High blood pressure means your heart is having to work overtime. So, instead of grabbing the salt pot, flavour your meals with fresh herbs and you’ll be surprised at the delicious results.

5. Destressing is probably one of the most important things we can do for ourselves. Find a way to relax with your loved ones. Do something that allows you to breathe out the stresses of everyday life and inhale nothing but the good. Not only will this help your heart be happy, it’s also good for your mental health.

Preventing heart disease

If any of your direct family members have suffered from heart- and blood-vessel-related issues, such as strokes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol, your risk of heart disease may well be slightly higher than others’. However, there are steps you can take to ensure you don’t share the same fate:

For starters, know your numbers! It’s important to know your cholesterol levels, blood sugar levels and blood pressure measurement.

Say bye to smoking. Did you realise that with each puff, the chemicals you are inhaling can (and eventually will) damage your heart and your blood vessels? And of course the more you smoke, the greater your risk – and that is not even mentioning the increased chance of cancer. By stopping today, you could be saving your lungs, your heart, your blood vessels and even your skin.

Eliminate trans fats from your diet. Trans fats are found predominantly in those naughty deep-fried nuggets you like to eat every once in a while, crackers and even those ‘convenient’ snack packs. Leave them on the shelf and opt for heart-healthy foods you can make yourself. An added benefit of this is weight loss. Being overweight can contribute to the development of type 2 diabetes. This does your heart no favours, so take control of your diet and be heart-conscious when choosing what you fuel your body with.

Get moving. The importance of getting regular exercise cannot be emphasised enough. Work out your daily stresses with 30 minutes of low to moderate cardio, if you’re a beginner. Another great way to unwind and work out is with yoga. Relax your mind and stretch your muscles – and get some peace and quiet – with simple yoga positions.

Be aware of the signs

If you experience any of these symptoms, make sure you consult
your doctor immediately:

• Unusually rapid or irregular heartbeat rhythm

• Dizziness and feeling light-headed

• Shortness of breath

• Fainting spells

• Chest discomfort

Age is but a number?

Find out your heart age by visiting heartage.co.za and keep up with heart health on heartfoundation.co.za.

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