By Fort Knox Army Wellness CenterFebruary 16, 2018
Did you know your heart is the most important muscle in your body? It pumps blood and oxygen to all of your vital organs. Your heart may not be on your mind at all during the day, but know that your heart is operating around the clock for you. When it doesn't get the care it needs, serious problems can develop that affect your quality of life.
Taking action now will help you keep your heart in top shape. It's as easy as doing three simple things:
Move. Move. Move.
Your heart is a muscle that gets stronger and healthier the more you engage in regular physical activity and exercise. Statistics show that people who don't exercise are almost twice as likely to get heart disease as people who are active.
Regular exercise can help you burn calories, lower your blood pressure, reduce LDL "bad" cholesterol, and boost your HDL "good" cholesterol. For overall health benefits, it's important for adults to engage in both cardiovascular exercise and resistance exercise.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. To achieve this goal, exercise can be performed through 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week, or 20-60 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise three days a week.
For resistance exercise, adults should train each major muscle group two or three days each week using their body weight or equipment to perform a variety of exercises. If you're not active, it's easy to get started. Think about what you enjoy doing for physical activity; make it fun. Where do you want to work out -- the gym or at home? Will you work out with a friend or group? Setting small exercise goals in the beginning leads to greater long-term success.
Make Heart Healthy Nutritional Choices
Eating healthy is one of the most important things you can do for your body, and it's something that you should strive to do every day. A healthy diet and lifestyle are your two best weapons of choice in the fight against heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends:
-Reduce sodium intake. Eating too much sodium increases your risk for heart disease, stroke and other health problems. Americans consume 77 percent of their sodium from processed foods like chips, pastries, canned foods, processed meats and microwave meals, in addition to what we add from the salt shaker. Opt for lower-sodium versions as much as possible.
-Eat lots of fruits and vegetables. Consume a large variety of fruits and vegetables in different colors. They can be fresh, frozen or canned. Fruits and vegetables contain heart healthy vitamins and minerals that protect you from heart disease.
-Limit unhealthy fats. Consume less unhealthy fat by substituting good fats -- mono and polyunsaturated fats -- for bad fats that have saturated and trans fats in them. You can use olive oil or coconut oil instead of butter. Choose lean cuts of meat, poultry without the skin, and fish, such as tuna and salmon, nuts, seeds and avocados.
-Cook at Caution-home. When you cook at home, you have complete control over the type and quality of ingredients in your meals. Cooking at home helps train your palate toward healthier choices. As a result, you are more likely to keep your waistline trim and lower your chances of obesity and heart disease.
Stress Less. Stress occurs when demands from work, school or relationships multiply and exceed your ability to manage them. In situations where stress is extreme or chronic, serious health conditions can develop, including anxiety, insomnia, muscle pain, high blood pressure, and a weakened immune system that results in major illnesses like heart disease.
Stress is the leading killer of Americans, according to the American Heart Association. Therefore, it is critical to learn how to manage your stress. There are many ways to deal with stress both in the short-term and long-term. Exercise, maintaining a positive attitude, laughter and reading a book for relaxation are great ways to start dealing with stress. For long-term heart health, learn how to manage your stress through consistent relaxation or stress management techniques like deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation and meditation.
For more information on how to keep your heart healthy, visit heart.org/HEARTORG/ or schedule an appointment with the Army Wellness Center to help you sustain good health and improve your overall lifestyle. Call (502) 626-0408 today and learn about the free services we offer for beneficiaries, government employees and contractors.