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7 Habits for a Healthy Heart, from the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association (AHA) has identified seven important steps to follow to protect your heart. These seven important behaviors that can help prevent heart disease include: exercising, eating right, lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol, knowing your blood sugar and maintaining a healthy weight. There are many factors that significantly affect heart function. Learning what benefits and what harms your heart is very important in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system.

Cholesterol Levels and Blood Sugar

Trans-fatty acids present in sweet desserts, fast food, and animal fats increase cholesterol levels in blood and negatively affect our cardiovascular system. Sugary foods could be very harmful to your heart. The body responds to high blood sugar levels by pumping out more insulin to transform the sugar into energy. Too much insulin causes inflammation of the arteries, making them more vulnerable. The AHA recommends that in addition to reducing saturated fat, trans fatty acids and cholesterol, that people also reduce the intake of sweets and refined carbohydrates that can increase blood sugar and insulin levels. Instead, medical professionals and dieticians recommend that people enrich their diets with fiber, vegetables, and whole grains. The AHA recommends only six teaspoons of added sugar a day.

Exercise

To reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of moderate- intensity aerobic exercise per week along with two sessions of about 30 minutes each of resistance training per week. These sessions can even be divided into ten-minute intervals, and you can do anything you enjoy to get a little bit of breathing in. Whether it’s fast walking, riding a bike, swimming or running, make sure that you are consistent and exercise regularly. Exercise is the best type of medicine for everything. Any type of exercise is better than none. It can enhance the cardiorespiratory system, increases HDL cholesterol, reduces blood pressure and heart rate, improves blood sugar control and lowers inflammation.

Stress and High Blood Pressure

One of the leading causes of heart attacks is hypertension, also known as high blood pressure. African-Americans, older individuals, and those with diabetes or other ailments are more vulnerable to hypertension. Doctors say that people with high blood pressure should make sure that their heart is working well and to check their blood pressure regularly. Besides taking medications, high blood pressure can be lowered by losing weight and maintaining a healthy diet, lowering alcohol consumption, watching your salt and sugar intake and by exercising.

To read the full list of tips on improving heart health, click here.

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