Heart Health – Keeping your ticker in tip top condition
In today’s society exercise is seen as something mainly important for your confidence and mental health improvements. However, it’s also important to remember all the other benefits exercise has on the body. In this article, we are going to show some love to the part of the body which symbolises love …… the heart! The heart is without a doubt the most important organ in the human body and looking after this workhorse of an organ is key. Below are our tips on keeping your ticker in tip top condition and the other benefits looking after it has.
With easy access to fast food, sedentary work environments and high stress loads, along with high levels of smoking and alcohol, we are at a much higher risk of development of disease. Therefore, it is key to learn what is most important to improving your overall heart health.
In a world where there is a large enthuses on body positivity – recommending fat loss as a way to improve your health could be seen as negative and insensitive. It is important to remember that we are not disregarding body positivity but rather not promoting positivity towards being unhealthy. This is why we still believe recommending fat loss (if overweight) as a key factor towards heart health.
Excess weight can lead to fatty material building up in our arteries. Over time if these fatty deposits cause a blockage, this can cause a heart attack. Even small amounts of weight loss can help make drastic improvements to our overall health if we are at risk of cardiovascular disease. Weight loss has been shown to improve overall metabolic function and reduce high blood pressure as well as lowering total cholesterol levels. Improving all of these health markers are brilliant for your tickers longevity!!
Improving dietary quality
Higher diet quality is strongly associated with decreased risk of all cardiovascular disease. Consuming less junk food and less processed sugar whilst increasing your vegetable intake and variety in your diet from whole foods and whole grains, can help substantially reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
The biggest dietary impact can come from omega 3 fish oils. Fish oils have been shown to reduce serum triglycerides (fats found in your blood) as well as improving other health markers. Omega 3s can be bought in capsule form but we can also obtain some from foods such as; oily fish like salmon and mackerel, nuts and seeds such as chia seeds, flax seeds and eggs.
Fats are a vital part of our diet and are important especially when referring to cardiovascular disease. Consuming a diet lower in trans fats (fried foods, butter, biscuits, pastries and pies etc) and introducing more polyunsaturated fats such as fish, flax seeds, walnuts, pine nuts etc is going to be a big contributor to reducing cholesterol.
Moderating alcohol intake
Moderate intake of alcohol actually LOWERS the risk of cardiovascular disease BUT excessive intake is also detrimental. Yes, you heard that correct!! So, if you enjoy a glass of red, we would recommend having a small glass a couple of nights a week.
High levels of alcohol intake can overtime cause hypertension (high blood pressure) which adds more strain on the heart. By reducing the levels of alcohol you consume, we can reduce the risk of high blood pressure.
Manage stress levels
There are strong links between job stress/ high work demands, daily stresses and cardiovascular events/diseases. A study showed that women with high job -related stress had double the risk of myocardial infarction compared to low job-related stress.
Stress reduction techniques in randomised control trials show that they “work” and can help reduce blood pressure, symptoms of anxiety and depression, perceived stress. By incorporating meditation techniques, it has been shown to significantly reduce mortality and stroke risk. Take the time to chill and simply give yourself 5 minutes of peace during the day. Or combine exercise with meditation techniques with something like yoga
To find out more about FORMs yoga and RESET studio click here
Exercise is vital for maintaining overall health and well-being, especially for the heart. Regular physical activity can lower the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other chronic illnesses. Two forms of exercise that are beneficial for heart health are cardiovascular training and strength training.
Also known as aerobic exercise, is any form of exercise that increases the heart rate and blood circulation. Excellent for improving heart health as it strengthens the heart muscle, enhances blood flow, and increases the body’s ability to use oxygen. Examples of cardiovascular exercises include running, cycling, swimming, and dancing.
The benefits of cardiovascular training on heart health include:
- Improved Cardiac Function: Regular cardiovascular exercise strengthens the heart muscle, making it more efficient in pumping blood to the rest of the body.
- Lower Blood Pressure: Cardiovascular exercise can help lower blood pressure by improving blood flow and reducing stress on the heart.
- Increased Lung Capacity: Aerobic exercise increases lung capacity, which in turn increases the body’s ability to use oxygen, reducing the risk of heart disease.
- Reduced Cholesterol: Regular cardiovascular exercise can help lower cholesterol levels, reducing the risk of heart disease.
- Improved Mental Health: Cardiovascular exercise has been shown to reduce anxiety and depression, which are risk factors for heart disease.
Also known as resistance training, is any form of exercise that involves resistance against an external force. Excellent for improving heart health as it helps build muscle mass, increase bone density, and improve insulin sensitivity. Examples of strength training exercises include weightlifting, bodyweight exercises, and resistance band exercises.
The benefits of strength training on heart health include:
- Improved Metabolism: Strength training can help improve insulin sensitivity, which in turn helps regulate glucose levels, reducing the risk of heart disease.
- Increased Muscle Mass: Building muscle mass through strength training can help lower cholesterol levels and improve cardiovascular health.
- Reduced Body Fat: Strength training can help reduce body fat, which is a risk factor for heart disease.
- Improved Bone Density: Regular strength training can help improve bone density, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and fractures, which can lead to heart disease.
Measuring your progress
At FORM we are big believers in measuring your progress. ‘What you don’t measure, can’t be managed’ and this is true when it comes to improving heart health. To assess your improvements in cardiovascular fitness and heart health, it is important to monitor your progress over time. Some methods for assessing your heart health include:
- Heart Rate Monitoring: Regular monitoring of your heart rate can help track your progress and ensure that you are getting the most out of your cardiovascular training.
- Blood Pressure Monitoring: Regular monitoring of your blood pressure can help track your progress and ensure that you are reducing your risk of heart disease.
- Body Composition Analysis: Regular analysis of your body composition can help track your progress and ensure that you are reducing your risk of heart disease by reducing body fat and increasing muscle mass.
We are still a long way from truly understanding the complexities in the area of cardiovascular disease. By doing the basics well and encouraging more healthy behaviours we are only going to make a positive influence.
Written by Claudia Fiddler – FORMs nutritionist and personal trainer
1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Physical Activity for Everyone.