It would be totally time-wasting to explain the importance of the heart. We all know how significant it is. As long as the heart keeps beating life continues for the person.
Since the heart is an extremely important organ, anything that hinders its functions can cause fatal consequences.
Being aware of the things that threaten heart health and eliminating them accordingly is the first step to keeping your heart healthy.
According to medical experts; age, gender, race, ethnicity, and family history are the risk factors for heart disease that you have no control over (1).
Therefore, the risk of developing heart problems may increase based on these factors.
On the other hand, there are many things in your control that determines how healthy your heart is and will be. So, it is necessary to say that the fate of your heart is mostly in your hands.
The small changes you can make in your life can be enough to keep the potential heart problems at bay.
In this article, we are sharing with you the 8 most effective ways – which have been accepted by the world’s most prominent medical experts and medical institutions – to protect heart health.
1- Eat Healthy Diet
It goes without saying that you are what you eat. If you always eat or drink unhealthy, there will be unavoidable consequences of this choice in your health soon or later. And, it applies to everyone.
Your heart is one of the organs that your diet choices can affect either positively or negatively. Basically, it depends on what you consume.
You may have damaged your heart due to years of eating unhealthy foods. Even so, you can still convert to a healthy diet and minimise the potential damage caused by unhealthy eating.
We all know stereotypes things like fast-food products are unhealthy for the heart whereas fruits/vegetables protect this vital organ. But, it is indeed more complex than that.
Mayo Clinic shares seven diet tips that will help keep your heart healthy (2).
- Control your portion size
- Eat more vegetables and fruits
- Select whole grains
- Limit unhealthy fats
- Choose low-fat protein sources
- Reduce the salt (sodium) in your food
- Create daily menus ( using the 6 strategies above)
Summary: Eating healthy is one of the most important factors to protect heart health. It is never too late to start eating healthy foods and protect heart health.
2- Stay Active
Staying active or physical activity is another extremely important factor when it comes to protecting the heart.
You must have heard many times the importance of regular physical activity for heart health. But, its importance for the heart is often underrated by many people.
Now you may want to ask questions like ” Which type of exercise is best for the heart? or How many our of exercise should I do a week? “.
The following are considered heart-friendly exercises;
Note: Being physically active is key to a healthy life. However, if you are above a certain age or if you have a medical condition, doing exercise may cause complications. So, speak to your doctor about your exercise plan.
Summary; not only your heart but your overall health can benefit from physical activity.
3- Quit Smoking
According to U.S Food & Drug Administration; cigarette smoke damages all parts of your body with more than 7000 toxic chemicals in it. And your heart is one of the most damaged organs by cigarette smoke (7).
Smoking is not only harmful to your heart and blood vessels it can also change your blood chemistry.
Let’s refer to some stats to demonstrate how detrimental smoking can be to your health but more specifically to your heart.
Smoking is responsible for more than 480,000 deaths alone in the U.S every year (8).
Every year about 160,000 people die due to smoking-related cardiovascular diseases. The term cardiovascular disease is used to define conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels (7)
Summary: cigarette smoking can damage your health in various ways. However, your lungs and heart are the most damaged ones. If you really want to protect your heart, quitting is a must.
4- Avoid Being Overweight
Being overweight or obese can lead to many serious diseases. One of them, maybe the most serious one, is heart disease.
But, it bears the question of ” how exactly being overweight can lead to heart disease ?”.
Let’s explain briefly and simply.
if you are overweight or obese fatty materials in your body can build up in the blood vessels which carry blood and oxygen to your heart and other organs. And this fat build-up in the blood vessels can inhibit blood circulation to your heart. As a result of this blocked or poor blood circulation to the heart, a heart attack can happen (9).
Being overweight also threatens your heart health by causing high blood pressure and diabetes. Bear in mind that both of these diseases are strong risk factors for heart disease (10).
Summary: Being overweight or obese can damage your heart both directly or indirectly. If you are not able to lose excess kilos despite all of your efforts, consider getting professional help.
5- Control Your Cholesterol
High cholesterol is one of the medical conditions that can badly damage your heart. Therefore, it is quite important to control the “bad cholesterol” levels to avoid heart disease.
As for the question of how high cholesterol leads to heart attack; too much cholesterol (a fat-like substance) in the blood builds up in the blood vessels. This fat build-up narrows down the blood vessels and blood flow is slowed down or blocked. As a consequence of this, a heart attack or a stroke can happen (11), (12).
The human body produces as much cholesterol as it needs. However, we take more cholesterol from foods. When the amount of cholesterol becomes too much in the bloodstream it can lead to fatal medical conditions, including heart attack (11).
Summary: When it comes to heart health, neglecting high cholesterol levels can cause quite serious conditions.
6- Control Your Blood Pressure
Here is another medical condition that can be as dangerous as high cholesterol for your heart health. That is indeed high blood pressure.
If you don’t have a high blood pressure problem, that means you have a relatively lower risk of experiencing stroke and heart attack.
If you have this health condition, it is vital for you to keep your high blood pressure at a safe level. Because unmanaged high blood pressure can lead to a heart attack (13).
High blood pressure can be controlled with a simple lifestyle and diet changes. To lower high blood pressure, work with your doctor. In doing so, you can minimise the risk of heart disorders occurring due to hypertension.
Summary: How high or low your blood pressure can directly affect your heart health. Try to keep it at a safe level.
7- Limit Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol consumption may not be as dangerous as smoking in terms of damaging heart health. However, when drunk excessively, vital organs can get damaged including the heart, in the long term.
Long-term alcohol consumption can damage heart health in 3 ways.
- Drinking too much alcohol can weaken the heart muscles thus preventing it from pumping blood efficiently (14), (15).
- As we discussed in the previous section, high blood pressure is a risk factor for heart attack. The problem is heavy drinking can increase blood pressure to a risky level, thus, increasing the risk of heart disease (16).
- Alcohol, due to excess calories, can lead people to obesity, which is another risk factor for heart disease as we discussed above (17).
Summary: If you want to protect your heart; drink non-alcohol or limit its consumption. For women 1 drink a day, for men 2 drinks a day (18).
8- Manage Stress
We all are exposed to stress, It is an unavoidable part of our lives. However, when stress becomes chronic and excessive; it can bring various health problems along with it.
Does stress affect your heart? More research is necessary to understand how exactly stress is affecting heart health. It may not directly affect your heart.
However, medical experts suggest that stress can lead to behaviours that can be harmful to heart health, including smoking, overdrinking, overeating and sedentary life, all of which are risk factors for heart disease (19).
Summary: Too much stress can damage your health in many ways. However, whether or not it causes heart disease is not clear yet. Regardless, it is important to know how to manage your stress.
Tarkan is an experienced health writer ( currently more than 600 articles ) and also the founder of this website namely www.neededforhealth.com. His expertise in health stems from in-depth medical research and knowledge which he obtained over the course of many years.
Tarkan enjoys sharing factual knowledge on health, psychology and nutrition. He always aims to deliver evidence-based recommendations, provide links to related scientific studies.