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.
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.