Cardiovascular conditions are one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Most common cardiovascular diseases that are a matter of great concern include congestive heart failure, ischemic heart disease, and arteriolosclerosis. In fact 4 out of 5 deaths caused by CVD (almost 80%) are due to heart attacks or stroke.
Atherosclerosis is a common illness characterized by the buildup of plaque in arteries, triggered by excessive cholesterol and fat. Over time fat deposits may also harden and narrow the blood vessel which, restricts the blood flow.
Cardiovascular health refers to the normal functioning of the heart and blood vessels, which deliver oxygen and nutrients to the whole body and in turn remove waste and carbon dioxide from tissues. If you want to be healthy, it is important that blood is not only pumped properly but flows efficiently too.
The fortunate bit is that there is a lot we can do to try and prevent the occurrence of heart disease – while the simultaneous bit of unfortunate news is that sometimes it is unstoppable no matter what we do, as age, race and family history is something we cannot change.
So, what are the things that we can control, that will help our cardiovascular system from becoming weaker?
This is a no-brainer – exercise improves your heart and lung function. Physical activity pumps your heart up, gets your blood rushing faster, gets your muscles burning energy and burns calories for you. Not only is it a great way to stay fit, but it also increases your metabolic rate, lowers your resting heart rate over time, and tones your muscles. Not to mention, it is the best way to de-stress! Talk about those endorphins and that runner’s high. Exercise lowers levels of bad LDL (bad cholesterol) in your body and increases good cholesterol or HDL levels. It also increases insulin sensitivity, reduces total body weight and lowers blood pressure – all of which have an enormous positive impact on your health as well as the cardiovascular system.
2. Quit smoking.
The variety of toxic substances in cigarette smoke are both noxious to the cardiovascular system and general health of the abuser, with over 4000 carcinogenic substances as well as tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide emissions.
According to the American Lung Association, smoking makes your heart beat faster and increases blood pressure. It also increases cholesterol levels in the blood, which can lead to a buildup of arterial plaque that narrows the blood vessels as time goes on. Smoking may also lead to aneurysms in arteries, which is basically a bulging, dilated segment of the blood vessel that is prone to ruptures.
Blood clots are another grave complication associated with nicotine in smoke. A blood clot, as you can guess, can clog up arteries and prevent blood from flowing, leading to the ischemic death of tissues such as brain tissue or heart tissue.
Due to the carbon monoxide content in smoke, efficient loading and unloading of oxygen cannot take place in the lungs due to which exchange between CO2 and oxygen isn’t up to mark. This can lead to low blood oxygen and pulmonary hypertension, whereby oxygen levels are further reduced in this vicious cycle. It is necessary that you avoid all types of smoking – i.e., both passive and active!
3. Good news – Drink a Little Red Wine!
A little bit of red wine every day is actually healthy for your heart. However, limit your drinks to one a day. Flavonoids and resveratrol in red wine are actually linked to the healthier functioning of the heart.
4. Substitute heavy cholesterols found in meats for heart-healthy vegetables packed with nutrients.
These will lower your cholesterol and prevent plaque buildup in the arteries. A heart healthy diet is critical in avoiding unhealthy arteriolar dysfunction. Avoid trans-fat found in deep-fried food. Eat foods rich in iron, whole-grains, fiber, and nutrients that are good for your heart. Add dark leafy vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products to your grocery list and avoid refined and processed foods including white rice, pasta, and bread.
5. Add the Much-needed Supplements
Many supplements are needed for healthy heart function. Coenzyme Q is one such supplement that helps provide the much-needed ATP. Since the heart beats 86,400 times a day, every day, for your whole life, it is a busy organ that needs a constant supply of energy.
Pantothenic acid (another supplement) is an active component of CoQ10, and research suggests it has lipid lowering activity – helps lower high cholesterol levels in the blood.
Fish oil is another supplement that supports healthy heart function. It can prevent stroke or heart attacks, improve sensitivity to insulin and reduce the risk of sudden cardiac failure.
6. Learn to de-stress.
Sometimes you may be overworked by your job or might have a turbulent relationship, financial problems, or even health problems which can cause stress to build up in your system. Chronic stress sadly can lead to long-lasting depressive symptoms which weaken your heart over time and raise blood pressure. It is imperative, not only for the cardiovascular system but for the general health of the body, to keep your stressors at bay and not let them take control over you.
Meditate, immerse in your favorite hobby, go for a walk with your dog – whatever it is you need to unwind and cool down. Remember to keep your mental health a priority, as it is the most critical facet of your life.
7. Great news!
Dark chocolate is healthy for your heart. It contains flavonoids and antioxidants, which help prevent inflammatory damage to the tissues in the body. Flavonoids are also crucial in lowering blood pressure, improving circulation to the brain and heart, and avoiding platelets from sticking together. However, eat dark chocolate in moderation as overeating can lead to obesity.
The Final Word
Now that we’ve seen how one can improve their cardiovascular health, it is important to heed this advice and follow through for a better lifestyle.
The best way to know about your health is to research all the ways you can become healthy. Find out the right exercise for you, the proper diet for you, and the right hobbies to keep your stressors down. It is essential to lead a balanced lifestyle, not going overboard with exercise and healthy eating because having a little bit of fun is absolutely necessary to living life to the fullest!
As you are aware, it is important to consult your GP before making any lifestyle changes. To know what diet or exercise is right for you, get in touch with your doctor. The good news is that most healthcare providers have now incorporated telemedicine into their practice which means you can contact them on your laptop or phone. So what are waiting for? Get the green signal from your GP and take the first small step to improve your cardiovascular health.
Author Bio: Zyana Morris is a passionate blogger who loves to write about prevailing health, fitness and lifestyle trends. She is a featured author at various blogs and currently working as a blogger for Mend Family’s Blog. Follow @ZyanaMorris