If someone were to ask “what is the key to a long life?” I would have to say a healthy heart.
Along with our brain, our heart is the cornerstone that keeps our bodies going. While deaths due to heart disease have dropped in recent years, it still remains the number one killer of Americans. Many factors, like healthy eating and exercise, play a role in maintaining a healthy heart, but here are a few more tips to incorporate into your life that you can take care of your heart.
1) Eat Well
At this point, it is pretty common knowledge that fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are keys to a healthy diet. But more often than not, I get asked to stack rank which foods are better than others.
Contrary to popular belief (and fad diets) gluten and carbs are not the root of all evil.
In fact, whole grain carbohydrates are one of the best and most economical sources of dietary fiber you can incorporate into a balanced diet. Including moderate portions — about a half cup — of farro, barley, or brown rice is a great way to keep you fuller longer; thereby limiting that incessant need to snack.
The oils you use are an additional key contributor to the healthfulness of your diet. Another common food misconception is that coconut oil is exceptionally healthy. Newsflash: it’s not.
While it tastes great, coconut oils are primarily saturated fat (90%), which isn’t benefiting your heart health at all. There is a component of coconut oil that does raise good cholesterol, but it is not significant enough to make this a good choice for heart health. Stick with olive oil and avocado oils and use sparingly.
2) Drink More
We often spend a lot of time thinking about what we are going to eat but give little thought to what we are going to drink. Your choice in beverages can have a significant impact on your overall health.
As much as possible stick with water: it has zero calories, zero sugar and supports the functionality of your body. And if plain water is too boring for you, infuse fresh fruits and herbs for fresh, natural flavor without adding sugar or try unsweetened sparkling water.
Unsweetened herbal teas are your next best choice; they often provide antioxidants and won’t over-caffeinate you and interfere with your sleep.
And remember: you don’t have to completely avoid other beverages like juice, soda or alcohol; just have them in moderation. Having these choices separate from a meal allows you to better focus on how much you are consuming.
3) Solid Sleep
Sleep is a critical part of our everyday success and is equally important to our heart health. Arianna Huffington, founder and CEO of Thrive Global, and sleep evangelist has spoken adamantly about the need for a good night’s sleep. Hell, she’s even written a book on it.
But what is a good night sleep? I was always told 8 hours is the magic number, but the most recent research points to 7 hours a good goal, at a minimum. Too little sleep has been linked to higher risk of high blood pressure a major component of heart disease, increased obesity, diabetes, lowered immune system function, bipolar disorder and Alzheimer’s disease.
However, more is not always better. An excess of 9 hours of sleep a night has also been linked to increased risk factors for heart disease, including increased calcium buildup in arteries.
If you have trouble sleeping for 7 hours straight, you might be lacking consistency in your daily routine. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time (or at least close) every night. Daily exercise relieves stress and can also improve sleep. Finally, limit stimulation like TV and screen time from your bedtime routine.
Taking steps to a healthy heart is a lifelong journey, but one that could make your life longer.