We’re all aware of how important it is to take care of our hearts, but it can sometimes be hard to know how.
The causes of illnesses such as heart attacks, strokes and cardiovascular diseases often involve a combination of factors. These factors include, but aren’t limited to:
- Harsh substances such as alcohol and drugs
- Tobacco use
- Unhealthy diet
- Lack of physical activity
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
These are just a few of the physical ways that can cause your heart health to suffer – but, it’s also been scientifically proven that emotions can do your heart physical harm.
Studies have shown that the heart can be affected by simply hearing bad or stressful news. Strong emotions such as anger and grief can cause irregular heart rhythms, and stress cardiomyothapy (also known as ‘broken heart syndrome’) can occur and increase the risk of a heart attack within 24 hours after the loss of a loved one.
Negative emotions can also lead to unhealthy lifestyle habits, which can result in a risk of heart disease. But, it’s never too late to make the necessary changes to live a longer, healthier life.
With this in mind, here are a few practical ways to both physically and emotionally care for your heart.
HOW TO PHYSICALLY CARE FOR YOUR HEART
EAT A HEALTHY DIET
A healthy diet is a varied one, meaning that it should consist of a wide range of different foods including fruits, vegetables, grains and proteins.
Consuming fats and sugars isn’t necessarily a bad thing, provided it’s not an excessive amount.
In short, eating everything in moderation is essential to keeping your heart healthy and happy.
INCREASE PHYSICAL ACTIVITY
Exercise improves blood pressure, cholesterol levels and allows you to maintain your overall weight. Adults are recommended to perform at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week – and this can be any form of activity that results in an increase of heart rate.
However, this doesn’t mean you have to run five miles on a treadmill every other day. Activities such as brisk walking, climbing stairs, gardening and household chores all contribute to a person’s physical activity levels.
Regardless of the activity, the more your body moves, the healthier your heart will be.
CUT DOWN (OR CUT OUT) HARMFUL SUBSTANCES
Just one year after quitting smoking, the risk of heart disease is about half that of a smoker.
Cutting out tobacco, alcohol and other harmful substances is arguably the greatest thing you can do for your heart. The long-term health benefits are immense – and it’s even been proven to add years on to your life!
HAVE YOUR LEVELS CHECKED
In order to maintain a healthy heart, it’s important to know how healthy (or unhealthy) it is in the first place.
Having your blood pressure and blood sugar levels checked regularly can help identify various risks such as hypertension or diabetes. Then, if your heart is at risk for any particular reason, you can make any necessary changes with the advice of a health professional.
HOW TO EMOTIONALLY CARE FOR YOUR HEART
EXPRESS YOUR FEELINGS
The saying ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ is the perfect way to explain this. Keeping feelings of anger, sadness or distress inside you only adds to your stress levels, which isn’t good for your heart.
So, instead of suppressing your feelings, express and address them. Notice what makes you sad, and let people close to you know when something is bothering you. Take care of your emotional health, and your physical health will thank you.
SPEND TIME WITH LOVED ONES
Positive connections with those around us are crucial for our emotional wellbeing.
Meet up with a friend for lunch, go on a date with your partner or take your dog for a walk – whatever it is you decide to do, spending time with our loved ones is a fool-proof way to improve our emotional health.
DO THINGS YOU ENJOY
Want to make your heart happy? Fill it with your favourites!
Cook your favourite meal, where your favourite outfit and watch your favourite film. Or, why not practice a hobby you enjoy? Whether it's gardening, painting or playing an instrument, doing things that make us happy supresses our stress and encourages feelings of calmness and tranquility.
Managing our stress levels is crucial to making sure our blood pressure stays normal and our risk of a heart attack stays low.
Mindful relaxation methods such as deep breathing, yoga and meditation all help with reducing levels of stress. But, above all, maintaining a healthy balance between work and play is integral to maintaining our heart’s health. Find time to rest between work, do things you enjoy, and always view the positives in the world around you.
It's never too late to start your journey to a healthier heart. If you’re worried about your heart health or have any questions, contact your doctor or another health professional.