Five Daily Habits for a Healthy Heart

Take care of your heart.  Your heart affects every part of your body.  Your heart does the most physical work of any muscle during your lifetime.  It beats about 100,000 times a day, and with this faithful steady beat you have the gift of life. You control your heart health through your diet, lifestyle, and managing your stress.  Your emotional and physical well-being are both important for maintaining a healthy heart.

Start today to develop some daily heart-healthy habits to protect this vital organ.  Habits are the small decisions you make and actions you take each day. What we repeatedly do and focus on forms the person that we are.  The sum of your daily habits ultimately forms the current status of your emotional and physical health.

Find 30 minutes a day to exercise. The American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five days per week.  For people who would benefit from lowering their blood pressure or cholesterol, they recommend 40 minutes of aerobic exercise of moderate to vigorous intensity three to four times a week.

You can break this out into 15 minute intervals twice per day. On days you can’t make the 30-minute time goal start with at least ten or fifteen minutes. Don’t let the “all or nothing” goal stop you from making health gains today. Just start walking. Every step you take you are on your way to better health. You can build up to a 30-minute brisk power walk. Find a sport, fitness class or activity that you enjoy. Consider activities such as swimming, bicycling, tennis or dancing. When you get your body moving and your blood pumping your heart will benefit. And don’t forget to include strength training twice per week. Lifting weights and using whole body movements will raise your heart rate, strengthen your muscles and help manage stress.

Enjoy colorful, wholesome foods. Choose nutrient-rich foods every day that will benefit your heart and your health. Eat a variety of colorful fresh fruits and vegetables at each meal and snack.   Choose fiber-rich whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds. Include lean protein and healthy oils such as olive oil and flaxseed oil. Don’t forget to include fish at least once a week and fresh herbs and spices daily.  Focus on what you should eat. Instead of focusing on what you can’t have, focus on all the healthy choices and you will be too full to eat junk food.

Make sure to get seven to eight hours of sleep.  The better night’s sleep you get the healthier your heart will be. Several recent studies show links between shortened sleep duration, defined as less than six hours of sleep, and increased risk of heart disease.  The key to making sure you have time for quality sleep is to schedule it. Keep a consistent schedule for the time that you sleep and awake each day. Make this a habit and it will become part of your daily routine. Support this schedule by creating a bedtime routine that helps you relax with hot baths, journaling, soothing music or good books.

Practice deep breathing at least 15 minutes.  Deep breathing is one of the best ways to lower stress in the body. Increased heart rate, fast breathing and high blood pressure, which all happen when you are stressed; all decrease as you breathe deeply to relax.  Your brain receives the message to calm down and relax and sends this message to your body.  Breathe long, slow and deep in a mindful-state as often as possible.  As a powerful daily practice, deep breathing will advance your health and well-being.

Cultivate gratitude and acknowledge the good things in life. Some research suggests that by cultivating gratitude we cultivate well-being.  The simple act of writing down what you are grateful for can increase well-being and gratitude.  Taking time to meditate with appreciation and praying more often has been found to help people be more grateful.  Simply ask yourself each day, “What am I grateful for?”  This question will open up a wider outlook on life and can bring awareness and appreciation to the positive aspects within you and around you. A grateful heart is a healthier heart.

If you desire better or lasting health, it all starts with better habits. When you learn to transform your habits you can transform your life.

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