A healthy lifestyle, based on a varied and balanced diet and physical activity, can help you improve and maintain heart health. Find out the tips to follow
The heart: the organ through which all our emotions pass, but also the beating engine of life. Its activity can be compared to that of a "pump" which, without ever stopping, distributes oxygen to organs and tissues and receives carbon dioxide which it then sends to the lungs. All this through the blood.
With its approximately 5 liters of blood per minute, pumped when the body is not in activity, the heart works almost imperceptibly and incessantly. But just like every single part of the body, this organ also needs to be protected and monitored in order to enjoy good health. In fact, when he does not receive the necessary care, important problems can develop that can put his health at risk.
As indicated by the Ministry of Health, cardiovascular diseases (for example acute myocardial infarction, ischemic heart diseases) and cerebrovascular diseases (such as ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke) are the main cause of death in Italy. They are in fact very frequent in the adult population and increase with advancing age.
What to do to keep the heart healthy?
Good heart health is conditioned by the adoption (or not) of a healthy lifestyle. Today, the great variety of products – especially food products – can lead to indulging in temptations, so greedy, but also unhealthy. And this applies not only to the heart, but also to the body in general.
In addition, there is an increasing tendency to lead a sedentary lifestyle that involves little movement and, consequently, less chance of disposing of calorie excesses. From here to the development of cardiovascular disease, the step is short. Also for this reason, experts agree that a lifestyle based on dietary irregularities and reduced sporting activity has a negative impact on heart health.
In fact, there are (non-modifiable) factors influencing the onset of cardiovascular diseases, including:
However, there are others, such as the lifestyle followed, which depend only on us. The first step to improve and maintain heart health is therefore to change your lifestyle.
Here are some practical tips, suggested by the experts of the World Heart Federation:
- keep active for about 30 minutes a day. In addition to contributing to the prevention of heart attack and stroke, physical activity is also an excellent way to relieve stress and maintain a healthy weight. To increase the levels of daily movement, simply choose to use the stairs instead of the elevator or walk part of the way to work or to go home. As regards sports practice (which represents only one aspect of the broader concept of "physical activity", which means – as specified by the World Health Organization – "any movement determined by the musculoskeletal system that results in a energy expenditure higher than that of resting conditions "and therefore also includes simple movements such as walking, cycling, playing, gardening and housework), individual factors such as fitness level and age must be taken into account. In fact, physical exercise should never include stress that could in turn have negative repercussions on heart function. It is therefore better to proceed gradually, especially if you have been standing still for some time. How to do? The advice is first of all to listen to your body and secondly to be followed by a qualified fitness instructor, who can indicate the most suitable activities to practice, or, in the presence of specific conditions, by a physiatrist or physiotherapist;
- do a constant check of blood pressure and monitor glucose and cholesterol levels in the blood. If high, they can represent a risk for the development of heart disease;
- avoid smoking and keep away from smoke filled environments. In fact, even exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart attack;
- maintain your ideal weight. To monitor it, it can help to calculate your BMI (Body Mass Index), which is obtained by dividing the weight (expressed in kilograms) by the height squared (in meters);
- eat in a healthy and balanced way.
Foods that are good for the heart and circulation
The secret to having a healthy heart is to first pay attention to the foods we bring to the table. Fruits and vegetables, for example, are a true concentrate of vitamins, antioxidants and nutrients useful for the proper functioning of the heart. Not to mention their highly satiating power. As recommended by the World Health Organization, consuming fruit and vegetables twice a day reduces the risk of heart disease by about 20%.
Other foods to be included in your diet and which have the function of protecting the heart include:
- dried fruit;
- extra virgin olive oil;
- oily fish (it has a high content of omega 3 fatty acids);
- 75% dark chocolate.
As for the type of cooking, steam, foil, grilled or oven-cooked ones are preferred, depending on the food to be cooked. Attention also to the condiments, which must be as simple as possible. To flavor the dishes, go ahead with a drizzle of olive oil or spices, after making sure you are not allergic to them.
The ideal is to consume the right quantities of food in a variety of ways, for example by preferring vegetable proteins to animal ones and reducing the consumption of fats and carbohydrates.
For those who are recovering from heart disease or who are overweight or suffer from obesity, the advice is to set up a diet suited to their needs together with the reference specialist and that ensures the right supply of nutrients.
What are the foods that are bad for the heart
There are foods that, especially if consumed with great frequency, can undermine the good health of our heart. Eg:
- animal fats (butter, cream);
- red meats;
- fatty or highly processed foods;
- fried food;
- alcoholic / spirits;
- sugary drinks.
Also pay attention to the consumption of salt, which must be as economical as possible. Consequently, it is better to reduce foods that contain good quantities of it such as bread or baked goods in general.
Ultimately, to improve and maintain heart health, it is essential to combine a balanced diet with a good dose of sport. In specific cases, it is better to ask a specialist to indicate an ad hoc diet that also takes into account the quantities. In addition, it is good to monitor heart health with periodic checks by the cardiologist, especially in the presence of risk factors such as obesity, family history, smoking, high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, arterial hypertension.