It’s not unusual to take your heart health for granted but we should all pay a little more attention as far as this fantastic organ is concerned. Looking after your body as you get a little older should be second nature but sadly many of us simply do not follow the right path and some will eventually pay the price. Before things get that serious, isn’t it a good idea to take a closer look at your lifestyle and see what can be done to smooth the way to a safer future and a healthier heart? The purpose of this article is to highlight 4 specific areas where it is vital to both monitor and control the specific numbers that are the results of either a medical check-up or the actual effort that you are prepared to invest in the well-being of your heart. We will also drill down into each of these key numbers and discuss the best practice to follow in each case. It really is a numbers game and if you want to give your own heart the very best chance of keeping you alive for many years to come, please spend a few minutes reading on, it could make all of the difference!
Essentially, blood pressure is the term used to describe the actual force of your blood when it presses against the artery walls. The harder it presses, the higher your blood pressure reading becomes. Ideally, your blood pressure should be less than 120/80 mm Hg. Once it starts to become raised, your health can be affected in a negative way. If you discover that your own blood pressure is higher than 140/90 mm Hg, the risk of you succumbing to a stroke or even a heart attack becomes a real possibility. Although there are at least 10 ways to keep those blood pressure numbers nice and low, here are the four most effective ones:
- Exercise – This might seem startlingly obvious but you might be surprised to learn that a high percentage of adults get little or zero exercise at all. Being active is essential for those who are trying to improve their heart health. Instead of just sitting around in the evening,why not go for a little walk or even a brisk jog? If you can aim for about 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week, your blood pressure will soon look a lot better.
- Diet –Somewhat connected to our first tip but one without the other is a little like swimming against the tide. Healthy eating isn’t always about losing weight although it certainly will help. Start thinking about the calories that you are consuming every day but also about the food groups that you are choosing. Try and aim for around 7 portions of fruit and vegetables every single day, even if it is a little hard on some days.
- Alcohol – Many of us enjoy a drink on the weekend but this will not only pile on the pounds, it can also have a bad effect on your blood pressure and heart health. Try and aim for less than 3-4 units per day for men and 2-3 for women. Binge drinking is probably the worse type of imbibing alcohol because it can also be the cause of depression and will open up the door for all sorts of medical complications.
- Medicine – Nobody enjoys taking tablets and potions but for those who suffer from high blood pressure, it’s a must. Your doctor should be able to prescribe you an effective medicine that doesn’t have any lasting side effects.
The amount of sugar in your blood is crucial to how healthy you actually are. These levels can be measured by fasting blood tests and your doctor or clinic should be able to carry out one of these at your request. Your goal should be around or lower than 5.7% HbAlc, for your fasting glucose test, you need to be lower than 126mg/dL. Any higher than these two numbers and you are getting into diabetes territory. This chronic disease can cause serious damage to your organs and once you develop this condition, it stays with you for life. Type 2 diabetes is now a very real epidemic around the world and it’s a killer if not taken seriously. The good news for those already suffering from this chronic condition is that it can be managed so long as you are strict with the way that you eat and exercise. It is important though to speak with your doctor and, if possible, a dietician. Basically, there is no one size fits all way to manage type 2 diabetes because we are all so very different. The key to a healthy diet for those with high blood sugar is to eat foods that not only do not contain a lot of sugar, but also to choose foods that will not create a spike in the amount of sugar in your blood. Exercise is always on the menu for those wishing to lower their blood sugar and it is always more important to aim for a regular bout instead of just burning yourself out every now and then. By managing your blood sugar, you can eventually have a healthy heart once more and start enjoying the benefits that this will bring.
Cholesterol is a fatty type of substance that occurs in the blood and if you have high numbers of this, you could be putting your heart at risk. Cholesterol tests are available at any decent pharmacy but you can also ask your doctor to run some tests on your blood. If the results are higher than you would like, it is strongly advised to take a close look at your diet and exercise regime because changes need to be made. Controlling the level of cholesterol in your blood is only possible by examining the food that you eat and starting to understand how to make those changes. Heart-healthy foods will not only reduce the cholesterol level in your blood but some of them even taste pretty nice too. Here is a quick guide to heart-healthy foods and what makes them so good for you:
- Trans fats – Make no mistake, too much of these is very bad for you and can lead to all sorts of heart health issues. The major culprits here are fried foods and all sorts of processed foods. Although in moderation, these are not a problem, it is very important to keep them on the low down whenever possible. Try to read the ingredients on the packaging because they are there for a very good reason.
- Healthy fats – Saturated fats are rife in red meat and dairy products and can raise your cholesterol level when you are not being careful. Try and look for leaner cuts of meat and low-fat dairy options. Try and aim to get less than 7 percent of your daily calorie intake from saturated fats.
- Omega-3 fatty acids – This type of fat is prevalent in oily fish such as mackerel,salmon and herring. Try to eat this type of fish once or twice per week if your schedule allows. They are good for your heart and also increase the good cholesterol which is called high-density lipoprotein or HDL.
- Soluble fibre– This has very positive benefits for your heart health and the same goes for insoluble fibre. Look to increasing the amount of fruits, beans and oat bran in your daily diet for some very healthy results as far as your cholesterol is concerned.
Body Mass Index
Your BMI is worked out by combining your height and weight to calculate the amount of body fat you are walking around with. If your BMI is any higher than 25, then you really should start losing some weight whether it be via a diet or a new exercise regime. If your BMI is 30 or above, then you are considered to be obese and run a real risk of developing a heart disease. This number will typically start to rise as your waist circumference increases. Your BMI needs to be below 25 if you really care about your heart health and having a high body mass index can also lead to other complications. As you can imagine, maintaining a healthy BMI is best achieved with a healthy balance of diet and exercise. Not only will your heart health be at risk by having a high BMI but you could also develop type 2 diabetes if you don’t do something to bring it down. Even if your BMI is under 25 but you have a large waist, you could still be at risk of heart attack. If your waist is 94cm or above for men and 80cm and above for women, it’s time to hit the gym and start eating more sensibly. It’s also very important to check your children’s BMI from an early age because we can never be too careful as far as their health is concerned. If you are unsure about how to check your won or one of your family member’s BMI, book an appointment with your doctor for a full check-up. Your BMI is a very god starting point when looking into further discussion about your health.
So, there you have it, 4 very important sets of numbers that you need to be aware of for maintaining a healthy heart. Even though they are not directly related to each other, they all have equal importance. Essentially, if you are overweight and do not really look after yourself, you run a real risk of developing all four of these medical conditions. Having a high BMI goes hand in hand with type 2 diabetes and having a high cholesterol level is also connected to all sorts of medical difficulties. High blood pressure is one of the biggest killers of all and needs to be avoided at all costs. So, speak to your family doctor at the next opportunity and ask to be tested for each of these 4 numbers. It’s so important to maintain a healthy weight and by taking in an exercise routine and diet that you can easily live with, is the very best way to keep these numbers nice and low.