Skip the Heartbreak & Take Care of Your Heart

There are no shortcuts to keeping your heart healthy but if you do well, you improve your chances of living a healthy life and minimize your chances of heartbreak (i.e. your heart literally breaking) due to serious diseases. We believe that we should be the first ones to look after our own hearts and if we’re lucky, we’ll find people who will help us to care for it along the way. Ahead are some easy and feasible ways to make sure your heart is in good shape.

1. Enrich your daily diet with heart-friendly food

We understand how tough it can be to resist chicharon and while we think that you should be able to eat food that you enjoy, it’s also important to remember that eating a healthy diet is about balance and intention.

 Adding color to your plate with more vegetables and fruits is a good start as these are generally low in calories, and are high in dietary fiber which helps fight bad cholesterol. Try substituting high-calorie snacks with fruits or go for healthier alternatives like unbuttered popcorn, an apple, or whole grain pastry so that you can satiate your hunger without packing in calories. You can still eat your favorite dessert now and then; just be mindful to control your portions so that you don’t go overboard on sugar and trans fats.

 And speaking of fats, it’s time to make the switch to monosaturated varieties like canola oil and olive oil, and cut back on full-fat butter and palm oil to help limit the calories you get from fat. As for your proteins, plan everyday dishes that use leaner meats such as chicken breast, eggs, and fish. Varieties like tuna, salmon, anchovies, and mackerel are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which are proven to help lower bad cholesterol and help prevent cardiovascular diseases. Alternatively, you can take omega-3 supplements to help keep your cholesterol levels in check and reduce risk of heart disease.

2. Get Moving and Exercise Regularly

The American Heart Association recommends that adults do moderate-intensity exercises for 150 minutes throughout the week to help keep your heart healthy. Some examples of moderate-intensity activity are biking, dancing, brisk walking, and gardening all of which can burn calories and help strengthen your heart. If you prefer more intense activities, you can go for a run instead, skip rope, swim, or cycle at about 16km per hour to increase your heart rate.

 Are you just entering your fitness era? Don’t fret. Your heart is exercised with literally every move you make so if you prefer to start slow, you can do so by stretching regularly and then perform additional steps every time you step on your mat or go for a run. If on the other hand you are experiencing a chronic condition that limits your mobility, it is best to seek professional advice from your doctor on what physical activities you can do to help care for your heart. At the end of the day, remember that any form of exercise that you manage is a win for your heart and your body. 

3. Find healthy ways to cope with stress.

We all deal with stress in one way or another and while the temporariness of our worries vary, it helps to manage anxieties through healthy channels. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, women are especially vulnerable to physical problems caused by prolonged stress. Furthermore, women are likely to not recover as well as men do when they develop heart disease. Still, stress knows no gender which means we and learning how to cope with it can help us keep our physical health and mental health in check.

 When we’re under stress, our bodies release adrenaline which kicks in our fight or flight response; our heart rate is elevated, our bodies release cortisol (aka the stress hormone), and our day to day habits like sleep patterns and appetite are disrupted. Some of the things you can do to help manage stress include exercise, meditation, and setting reasonable boundaries between personal life and work. It’s also helpful to build a support system that consists of people you can trust and confide in. If, on the other hand, you’re experiencing long-term anxiety or depression, consider signing up for one on one counseling or therapy to help manage stress and to find out if you require medication or any form of treatment. 

4. Practice good dental hygiene.

A study in 2018 explored the correlation between coronary heart disease and oral hygiene, and experts theorized that periodontal diseases have an impact on cardiovascular health. The theory provides that the bacteria in the mouth doesn’t necessarily cause heart disease, dental damage such as gum inflammation can cause frequent inflammation and may cause the heart and the brain some damage. While more research is needed to prove (or disprove) this connection, it wouldn’t hurt if you take good care of your teeth with regular brushing, flossing, and visiting your dentist at least once a year. 

5. Do not smoke.

Yes, the cigarette packs that come in grotesque photos and grim warnings are telling the truth—not only can smoking cause severe diseases, it can also cause death. According to the Department of Health about 87,600 Filipinos die from tobacco-related diseases every year, not to mention the financial burden it puts on families that have to spend on healthcare services.

Smoking, especially when prolonged, can cause coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, and heart attack among others. Breathing in cigarette smoke disrupts the oxygen supply in your blood making your heart work extra. Furthermore, the changes in your blood chemistry caused by smoking can lead to plaque buildup around your arteries making it difficult for oxygen to flow through your body.

And while we acknowledge that addiction is a real disease, we also know that quitting smoking is possible. In fact, the World Health Organization recorded a 20% decline in Filipino smokers which is around a  million Filiinos that were able to kick the habit. The DOH also launched a quitline to help more people quit tobacco and in turn prevent more diseases caused by it.

Living a healthy and happy life might come with a checklist but every good thing we do to our bodies goes a long way which frankly doesn’t sound like a bad deal. Keep in mind that it’s even more important to care for your heart if cardiovascular diseases run in your family; we might be living in different times but prevention is still better than cure. And do it while you’re young because caring for your heart is never foolish.