Who doesn't like a list of five quick tips, or dare I say...hacks? I'm here to help.
As promised, I'm focusing on heart health this month. To that end, I am giving you a short list of things you can do NOW to help reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Shall we begin?
Know Your Numbers
It's important to know where you stand now. Do you know your cholesterol level? Do you know your low density lipoprotein (LDL) number? How about your high density lipoprotein (HDL)? The LDL number should be less than 99 and the HDL number should be more than 39. And the ratio of LDL/HDL should be less than 3.2.
How is your blood pressure? Is it below the recognized standard of a healthy blood pressure of 120/80? If it's higher than that, how much higher? Are you hypertensive? If so, you are at greater risk for stroke and other cardiovascular events.
Where are you blood sugar levels? A normal fasting blood sugar is less than 99 mg/dl. A pre-diabetic level is 100-125 and 126 and above indicates diabetes. A fasting blood sugar test should be done after at least fasting for eight hours.
Your hemoglobin A1c test is the measure of your blood sugar over the most recent 2-3 months. Glucose binds to red blood cells and since red blood cells live for about 2-3 months, this test can see how much glucose is bound to your red blood cells. A non-diabetic A1c level is between 4-5.6%. For someone who is pre-diabetic, the number is between 5.7-6.4%. A diabetic person's number is 6.5% and higher.
It's important to know where you stand with these numbers, especially as you get into middle age and older. They can all be silent killers. There are so many people walking around like ticking time bombs not knowing that they could be one bad decision away from a catastrophic event.
Manage Your Stress Level
Stress is a huge contributor to heart disease among many other conditions that are preventable. Of course, if we are living a life we have stress. What's important is how we respond to that stress. Here are some steps you can take to minimize the harmful effects of stress on your body:
- meditate - just a few minutes a day of stillness and focusing on your breath can help
- take a walk - if you can take a brisk 30 minute walk most days of the week, the health benefits are wonderful
- set healthy boundaries - this may be hard at first because people might not like it, but stay committed.
- eat a healthy anti-inflammatory diet - choosing mostly plant-based natural, whole foods will support your overall health and well-being
- ask for help - no man (or woman) is an island and people like to help others, so let them
Eat a Heart Healthy Diet
Choosing whole foods that are mostly plants is an overall good strategy for a healthy lifestyle. Whole foods from nature are what our bodies are supposed to use for nourishment.
Packaged foods manufactured from man-made ingredients, refined carbohydrates, processed sugar and chemicals that weren't meant for human consumption do nothing to add to the quality of your health. Eat the way we were designed to do. Your whole body will thank you.
Movement is very important for maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. You should strive to get some good sweaty movement into your life most days of the week if not every day. Do you have to run a marathon? Absolutely not. You just need to get your heart rate up to a range that, depending on your age, is going to build up your heart muscle. If you are otherwise healthy, that heart rate number is calculated by taking 220 minus your age x 60-80%. So if you're 50 years old, your range is 102-136 beats per minute (220-50) x .60 = 102. No fancy equipment is needed. Just put on a comfortable pair of shoes and get walking.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Obesity is one of the leading contributors to heart disease. This isn't about body-shaming anyone. Believe me, I know how that feels. But I also know how much easier it is to move my body and maintain a high level of energy when I don't carry around the equivalent of another full sized adult in excess weight. And I know that my key medical markers like my cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar levels are all in a much healthier range without carrying that weight.
Your heart has to work so much harder when your body is large. And if you also happen to be sedentary, your heart gets flabby like any other muscle that doesn't get a good workout. Be good to your heart and keep you weight at a heathy level. You don't have to be a bikini model but just take care of yourself.
There are other ways to support your heart but I promised you five tips and this is getting pretty long so I'll stop here. Come back all month for more. See you tomorrow.
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I help women living with or at risk for developing heart disease or other chronic illness that we can manage through lifestyle and nutrition changes. Or maybe you're on the verge of developing heart disease, or diabetes, or another lifestyle related condition. If so, let's chat. For a free consultation with me, click here.