Wellness By Theresa Brawner During your life, a healthy heart will beat around 2 billion times – amazing, right? But if you’re not careful enough, things like chronic heart disease or a sudden heart attack can cut that number short. All of us are at risk, but do you know just how many people die prematurely each year because of heart disease? I bet the number is much higher than you think it is. According to statistics gathered by the CDC, in the United States alone, around 600,000 people die from heart disease. But the country has more than 300,000,000 citizens, so the number is not really that high – right? Guess again, if you look at it more closely, heart disease accounts for 25% of deaths in the US. And if that’s not scary enough, you should also be aware of the fact that 715,000 Americans have a heart attack every year. And if that doesn’t make you take better care of your heart – nothing will. So… What do You Need to Do to Keep A Healthy Heart? In short – you need to start exercising as soon as possible! If you exercise on a regular basis, you’ll not only reduce your risk of heart disease (and get in better shape, of course) – but you’ll also increase your chance of survival if a heart attack does happen at some point or another. So if you’re thinking about this for the first time in your life, the next logical question is – just how much exercise your heart needs? Furthermore, you’re probably wondering what exercises work best? And what about your diet? And we’re just scratching the surface here… Don’t worry; there is a ton of studies that deals with these such as these. So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of them. Heart-Friendly Exercises Ok, let’s start with the good news – you don’t need to spend 40 hours in the gym every week to be healthy – not by a long shot. But how much exercise do you need? Do you still have to clean up your schedule in order to train? The answer to this question is hiding in plain sight – you don’t actually need to go to your doctor to find the answer to it – the Department of Health and Human Services has a guideline on their site that recommends: 75 Minutes of Hard Aerobic Activity or 150 Minutes of Moderate Aerobic Activity a Week Now, 75 minutes per week is a minimum, but 150 minutes is actually more recommendable. This regime includes easier exercises, and all it takes is five days of 30-minute-long exercise sessions to fulfill it. For instance, you can have three, 10-minute-long sessions every day. At Least Two Strength Training Sessions Every Week While this will take up less time, strength training is naturally much harder than regular cardio. You should start slowly, but once you get in better shape, you should have two or three 45 minute sessions every week, with exercises that target every muscle group in your body. So as you can see, you don’t have to devote too much time to fitness in order to lower your blood pressure, cholesterol and keep the heart steady pumping. On the other hand, if you spend a vast majority of your day in an office and/or attending meetings, and you don’t have enough time for a break – start small and commit to 30 to 40 minutes of exercise every week. After all, you realize that something is always better than nothing. Bonus Point: Cleaning up Your Diet The diet is as important as exercise is to your health, but for many people, changing their diet is simply too much. Some have deeply installed eating habits that simply can’t be changed overnight, while others think that changing their diet is simply too much job. Those are just common misconceptions of course, because: a) Changing your diet doesn’t actually take too much effort; b) It doesn’t require any extreme changes (you don’t even have to give up sweets completely); c) It can reduce the risk of dying from heart disease by 50%, according to Dr. Steve Nissen. Needless to say, you’ll have to devote a couple of hours every week to grocery shopping, in order to carefully pick the food. And once again, if you feel like you don’t have enough time for it, there’s a solution – you can easily use a meal prep service that brings fresh groceries at your front door every week. So what are some of the groceries that can keep your heart in a healthy and steady condition? Soy – it reduces cholesterols and helps in general cellular health. Berries – Blueberries are full of flavonoids, which provide cardiovascular benefits. Walnuts – these nuts can lower your cholesterol levels by 25%. Potatoes – they have high potassium levels, which are great for your blood pressure. Dark Chocolate – according to new findings, dark chocolate is great for your heart. In Addition… Small Things You Need to Avoid Ok, we told you what you need to do in order to keep your heart in perfect shape, but you’ll also have to make a couple of sacrifices. So here are a couple of things you need to pay special attention to: 1. Eat Only Healthy Fats Although most people think they should cut all of the fats from their diet, that’s actually not true. You need fats in your diet – but you need specific fats, like saturated, unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. The one fat you need to avoid is trans-fat, which clogs your arteries and increases your risk of having a stroke at a young age. So make sure to read the labels on the food you buy and look for 0% trans-fat. 2. Floss Your Teeth Regularly You can actually know if someone is healthy or not just by looking at their smile. So if you or someone you know deals with gum disease regularly (and has bloody gums), chances are, they will have to deal with heart disease at some point in their future. As the report I linked to in the paragraph above explains, bacteria in your mouth can move into your bloodstream and cause inflammation in your blood vessels. So make sure to floss twice a day in order to prevent gum disease. 3. Avoid Secondhand Smoke People who smoke have a greater risk of heart disease – we all know that. But did you know that if you hang out around smokers, your risk of developing heart disease is actually 30% higher? According to ANR research, exposure to secondhand smoke leads to some 34,000 premature deaths every year. This means you need to be firm with smokers and be loud and clear about not wanting to be around environmental smoke. In conclusion… Some Final Thoughts So as you can see, you don’t have to devote your whole life to exercising and dieting to maintain your heart at an optimum level. And before we go, let’s go over some key takeaways, shall we… And there you have it; those are a couple of things you could do to ensure your heart even surpass the 2 billion heartbeat mark. So what do you think? Do you have anything to add? Make sure to leave a comment bellow and share your thoughts with the rest of us.