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Simple Recommendations for a Healthier Heart

February is American Heart Month in the United States, aimed at bringing attention to a national effort to prevent one million heart attacks in the United States. Simple choices in diet and exercise can have a substantial impact on your overall heart health by improving overall cardiovascular function and decreasing cholesterol and tri-glyceride levels. For daily choices that can make a big difference, I recommend that you try some of the following tips.

Common advice for improving heart health is to follow a low fat diet, but we also know that focusing on the type of fat in our diet matters more than the overall level of fat intake.

Trans fats are the biggest offender when it comes to unhealthy fats. These artificially stabilized fats hit our heart with the double whammy of raising bad blood cholesterol while lowering healthy cholesterol. So what should you do?

  • Increase healthy fats (like those found in olive oil and nuts) which beneficially impact overall cholesterol levels.
  • Be sure to read nutrition labels to see if trans fat as an ingredient. Even if the amount per serving is very low, these levels are often reduced by indicating an artificially small serving size, which can still add up to a detrimental impact on your heart.
  • Finally, while reducing saturated fat consumption is also beneficial, these natural fats do increase both protective and unhealthy cholesterol levels and can be included in moderation.

For more dietary recommendations that will help with improving heart health, the Mayo Clinic provides simple recommendations such as including more soluble fiber (found in foods like oatmeal) omega three rich fish (salmon and sardines), nuts, olive oil, and foods with added plant sterols.

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In addition to cholesterol, elevated tri-glyceride levels are an indicator of risk for heart disease and diabetes. These levels increase when we routinely consume more calories than we burn.  While healthy diet choices like reasonable portion sizes, moderate alcohol consumption and an emphasis on fruits and vegetables will likely have a positive impact on your triglycerides, these numbers are also helped by regular exercise.

General recommendations for heart health are to ensure at least 30 minutes of movement most days of the week. If you are working to control your weight increasing this level of movement to as much as you can fit into your day is likely to be beneficial. Rather than emphasizing overwhelming endurance sessions, break your goal down into approachable segments throughout your day, such as increasing your overall step count, climbing more stairs, and adding in brief activity breaks throughout the day.

Many fitness monitoring apps can help you in monitoring your progress towards your daily goal and can even be integrated with your home workouts through the ViaFit app offered on many models of Horizon Fitness equipment.

Free Polar Chest Strap with Cardio Equipment

To make your heart rate tracking easier, select exercise equipment that will sync with Polar Chest Straps. Get a FREE Polar Chest Strap with Horizon Elite machines.

For more information on heart health, www.mayoclinic.org offers a wealth of tips and resources. While these small changes many not seem like much, when they become daily habits, they can add up to a big impact on your heart health, weight loss or maintenance, and overall well-being.


Five Simple Ways to Boost Your Heart’s Health

As we round the corner into spring, it is a great time to check-in and renew your commitment to a healthy year. A hearthealthy year. If you want to be healthy into your old age, it’s important to begin treating your heart well early on. The American Heart Association emphasizes maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise, a healthy diet, and smoking cessation as primary steps towards preventing heart disease. Assuming you’re up to date on your most recent physical, blood work, and doctor recommendations, what are the biggest ways to impact your heart with your daily choices? Here are five simple ways to boost your heart’s health.Heart Healthy Tips

Avoid Processed Foods. Steering clear of processed foods not only limits hidden sugars, sodium, and fake ingredients that sneak into your diet, it also forces you to emphasize the foods that reduce inflammation, improve your immunity and are packed with fiber, protein and micronutrients that do everything from boost your heart health to increase your ability to recover from your last workout. Try switching your breakfast cereal to oatmeal, which can assist in lowering your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, or building your meals around five foods that benefit your heart to include more produce, lean protein and healthy fats in your diet.

Get Your Workouts Started. For overall heart health, get moving at least 150 minutes per week. That can be 30 minutes every day, 10 minutes a few times each day, or an hour a few times each week. If you are new to working out regularly, or have current heart issues, this is a good zone to stay in for a few months to build up your endurance and confidence. Once these workouts become easier to accomplish and part of your everyday routine, it’s time to start making them tougher. You can start by adding in a tough workout (see below) once or twice a week.

Toughen Up your Workouts. Including tough workouts in your program is one of the best ways to help you manage your weight, as well as challenge your heart to make it stronger. Working out hard means your workouts can be shorter, accomplishing more in less time on busy days. A hard workout also means you’re challenging your heart at a higher level, increasing your cardiovascular fitness, your post workout recovery demands (calorie burn) and building muscle. If your current workouts are bringing you into your aerobic threshold (about 60-70% of your maximum heart rate) and you’re in good physical health, you can start to bring in some interval training that increases your heart rate to between 85% and 100% of your maximum heart rate for brief periods (30 seconds to 2 minutes) during your training. You can do this by increasing either the speed or the resistance on your Vision home fitness equipment, or by using the interval setting provided on most machines.

Lift Weights. To keep improving your overall health and daily functioning, considering adding in some strength training. At a minimum, shoot for two strength training sessions each week, hitting the major muscle groups of your body. If you’re looking to start building muscle and improve your performance, slowly add in a third session to help you see results. (Just be sure to give yourself a day to recover between workouts.) To get even more out of your workout and increase the cardiovascular impact, combine movements to target multiple muscle groups at once, such as stepping into a lunge with a bicep curl or doing full body planks and push-ups to strengthen nearly everything in your body. Another idea is to including strength training as a part of a circuit approach, alternating 60-90 seconds of one exercise with the same period of time on your cardio equipment. Your body will be cashing in on the body changing benefits of a weight routine in no time.

Manage Stress. By choosing regular exercise and a healthy diet, you’ve taken some important steps towards controlling the stress in your life. You can add to those steps by including mindfulness, gratitude, meditation or yoga in your fitness routine. For more suggestions, check out the American Heart Association’s resources on understanding and managing stress. These steps can all pay you back with a happier life now – and better health in the long run.

Do you have a question about general fitness, goal setting, getting the most out of your Vision Fitness equipment, etc.? Our fitness experts would love to answer your question in an upcoming blog post on VisionFitness.com. Just leave your question in the comments below.