We often take for granted the incredible actions of our most important muscle. Did you know the heart beats more than 100,000 times per day? Similar to an engine in a car, our heart needs special care and attention.
The engine of a car is responsible for powering a vehicle while undergoing considerable stress. Oil in our car keeps the engine well lubricated and cool and prevents junk and particles from accumulating in the engine. If we go too long without changing our oil, we may not see the effects immediately, but eventually our vehicle will start to fail.
The heart operates in a similar fashion. It powers all of our actions and is resilient under stress. Without proper care like nutrition and exercise, the heart will eventually start to fail. How do we take care of this organ that does so much work under the hood?
1. Kick Tobacco to the Curb!
The lungs are not the only organ affected by cigarette smoke. Tobacco damages blood vessels and puts us at risk for high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes. This is not only true for smokers, but those who inhale second-hand smoke are also at risk. One in three deaths each year from cardiovascular disease is caused by smoking (CDC).
2. Get Moving!
The heart is a muscle, and like every other muscle, it needs proper training. Challenge your body with exercise like walking, dancing, aerobics, cycling, and strength training. Aim for 30 minutes, 5 days per week. Pick something you like and commit to it.
3. Increase the Rough Stuff!
Fiber is an important nutrient that performs many essential functions for our bodies. First, fiber adheres to bad cholesterol in the blood and transports it out of the body or prevents it from being absorbed into the bloodstream. Fiber also takes a lot more energy to digest, so it keeps us satisfied longer between meals, decreasing the need for empty-calorie snacks. Finally, fiber helps the good bacteria in our gut thrive. All of these functions benefit our heart! Fiber is found in foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans/legumes.
4. Pass on the Salt!
Are you tired of hearing this refrain? Sadly, it is true. Sodium is a magnet for fluid. Remember those old science experiments? Water will always move toward an environment that is more concentrated in sodium. The more sodium in your blood vessels, the more fluid is also present. As the pressure in your blood vessels increases, it puts stress on many of your organs including your kidneys, liver, and heart. Over time, this damage takes a toll.
5. The Good Kind of Fat!
Fat is not always a bad word. In fact, it is an essential nutrient, meaning our bodies need it to survive. Certain types can decrease bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL). Why is this important? Increasing good cholesterol helps prevent bad cholesterol from leaving damaging debris in our blood vessels. To increase your intake of this important nutrient, eat plenty of nuts, avocado, peanut butter, olive oil, seeds, eggs, salmon, and tuna.