I learnt this the hard way, but the illusion of invincibility that youth tends to come with, doesn't take too long to shatter. You know, you're in your young adult phase, slamming shots every night and smoking like a chimney, fully convinced none of that will affect your body in the long run, as long as you straighten up your act eventually. But as someone who's all too familiar with the phrase, "I'll stop when I want to", I can tell you that isn't true one bit. Unhealthy habits have a way of catching up with you, particularly when you least expect them to.
When we say you need to take better care of your heart, we aren't just talking about evading the possibility of a heart attack. There are a lot of other heart issues, that may start at a young age and are usually minor enough to not be paid any heed to. And then the next thing you know, these small disturbances have compounded over time to take a serious toll on your physical and mental well-being. From something as standard as elevated blood pressure to acquired valve disease that affects only about 2% of the population, complications related to the heart happen to be amongst the most common causes for compromised life quality and extreme health issues. All this to say, the best way to combat an adverse outcome that's also entirely preventable, is to start early. In any case, nobody in the world has ever regretted investing in their health, no matter at what age they decided to initiate the process! So spurred on by the upcoming occasion of World Heart Day, we decided to list 10 things you can do right now for a healthier heart.
1. Break Out Of That Sedentary Lifestyle
This was definitely still relevant last year, but with the pandemic, the criticality of addressing this issue has increased tenfold. We've all been sitting within the four walls of our houses, either working on our desk or lounging in front of the TV or snoozing on the bed. I think it's safe to say that most of us barely get any physical movement in the regular course of our day. Sedentary behaviour and physical inactivity, are two of the leading reasons for heart issues later on in life. Trust me, as boring as it might sound right now, every time I talk to anybody above the age of 30 about exercise, they tell me they wish they'd done more of it. You don't necessarily need to get a gym membership, but small changes like taking the staircase, making an activity out of cleaning your room, or even busting out into your best moves every day for 30 minutes, will pay off!
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2. Stop Smoking
Just..stop. I'm not going to try and educate you on the adverse effects of smoking on our bodies, because let's face it you already know. But that's the thing about smokers isn't it, we're all very familiar with the kind of havoc it's wrecking on our systems, but continue to engage in the habit despite of it. So prioritise your health a bit more than a dose of nicotine, and you'll well on your way to a healthier heart. If you need some help, check out this blog on practical tips to quit smoking!
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3. Exercise Portion Control In Your Meals
The fact that obesity is linked with greater risk for heart disease, is old news at this point. But the thing most of gloss over, is how much you eat is just as important as what you eat. An easy hack to paving the way for a healthier heart, is to begin exercising portion control in your meals. Get all the important nutrients on your plate, but with a restricted amount of each. Another simple way to practice portion control, is to reduce the size of the plate you eat from!
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4. Fix Your Sleep Cycle
Several studies have indicated that sleep deprivation along with a messed up sleep cycle, is more often than not, linked to heart concerns. Disrupting your sleep schedule by just 90 minutes, can significantly augment your chances of developing cardiovascular problems. Sleep disturbances are also associated with issues like hypertension, depression and diabetes. So stop watching Netflix through the night, sleeping till noon and not getting nearly enough sleep. This blog might help in fixing your sleep schedule!
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5. Try To Shed Excess Belly Fat
Research has shown abdominal obesity to be significantly related to both fatal and non-fatal heart attacks. Even despite a normal BMI, excess belly fat can lead to strokes and other cardiovascular diseases. As surprising as it might be, fat distribution has just as much of a role to play in your heart's health, as the amount of it. It's even been linked to diabetes, insulin resistance and certain kinds of cancer. So yeah, start working that core!
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6. Ditch The Saturated Fat & Load Up On Soluble Fibre
Saturated fats found in food items like butter, cheese and cream can negatively affect your cholesterol levels. Which, as we all know, can lead to heart disease and major health concerns. Instead of saturated fats, go for monounsaturated fatty acids found in foods like nuts, avocado, olive oil and peanut butter. This will help moderate your blood cholesterol levels. At the same time, include more soluble fibre in your diet to boost digestion and metabolism.
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7. Take Out Time For At Least One Stress-Relieving Hobby Every Day
This one is pretty self-explanatory I believe. A higher stress level is one of the biggest causes of heart concerns. Stress has been dubbed as a silent killer, and that accurately sums up its effects on your body. So take out time to relax. This isn't just some random self-help tip, but a tried and tested way to have a healthier life. Engage in one relaxing hobby, preferably one that involves your hands, like drawing, colouring, knitting or gardening. Do it every single day for one week, and just see the results for yourself!
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8. Sharpen Your Dental Hygiene Practices
Poor dental hygiene habits have been linked to increased heart disturbances, in a number of medical studies. When you don't take care of your teeth adequately, the chances of developing a bacterial infection in your bloodstream increases significantly, which can then have a negative impact on your valves. Gum infection, gum inflammation and tooth damage have also been associated with an increased risk for heart disease. Brush your teeth twice a day, and brush your teeth well. Also, flossing is just as important as your dentist said it is.
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9. Start Your Day With A Mindful Breakfast
We are all well-acquainted with the phrase "breakfast is the most important meal of the day". And...it is. But eating your breakfast mindfully is also imperative. What I mean is, multi-tasking when you're in the middle of a meal, isn't a good idea for your health. So keep the newspaper aside, or stop scrolling through social media, and focus on just what's on your plate at that very moment! Mindful eating also makes a lot of difference to your emotional and psychological state.
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10. Schedule Regular Checkups With Your Doctor
Lastly, monitoring your stats periodically is critical to figuring out if there's something wrong with your heart, and doing so before it's too late. So schedule regular visits with your physician, take note of your numbers, and strive to keep those stable!
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Staying young at heart is just as important literally, as it is figuratively!