It's a pretty well known fact, that keeping a healthy heart is an important part of your overall well-being But what exactly does that mean? In this article, the expert cardiologists at CardioCare Marbella weigh in on some standard heart healthy recommendations and -more importantly, how to realistically implement them in your own day-to-day life.
How Big Is Your Risk of Heart Disease?
The first step in implementing a heart health plan in your own life is knowing your risk factor for developing heart disease. Your gender (men are more at risk than women), age (especially those after 60), general physical and mental health (namely your weight and stress level), lifestyle (poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking and/or drinking habits are all directly linked to your heart health), and personal and family history of certain diseases (especially heart disease, cholesterol, diabetes, and hypertension) will all determine your general risk of heart disease now or later in life.
If a number of these risk factors ring true for you, it's probably a good idea to speak with your doctor or GP about your heart health, or book a consultation with a trained cardiologist who can give you a more in-depth idea of where your heart health stands and what, specifically, you can do about it. A great option for this is an early prevention check-up at CardioCare Marbella where you'll get expert diagnostics, detailed care plans completely customised to your needs, and on-going support, guidance, and follow-ups to make sure your health is given the top priority it deserves.
How To Prevent Developing Risk Factors for Heart Disease
Some risk factors for heart disease like your age, gender, and family history, are unavoidable. If you're are a man over 60 with a family history of diabetes, for example, you should definitely speak with your doctor about your heart, even if you're in the peak of health. Prevention and early detection, after all, is the best way to keep your heart in prime condition! But what about if you're a generally healthy person with no family history of heart disease? Should you be concerned about your heart health? Yes and no. While you shouldn't stress too much about how unhealthy your heart could become (don't forget: too much stress is a risk factor for heart disease!), keeping a heart healthy lifestyle is always recommended. Here are some ways you can do that but remember: if you ever have any doubt about what you're doing or if it's enough to keep your heart healthy, always check with your doctor!
A Heart-Healthy Diet: Try to eat foods low in fat, salt, and cholesterol. More specifically, cut out processed foods as much as possible (shop the perimeter of your supermarket and skip the middle aisles) and cook at home whenever you can. Any fresh fruits or vegetables are always a great heart-healthy food option but so is oatmeal, brown rice, and quinoa, blueberries (and other berries), avocados (they have “good” fat in them), fish (especially oily ones like salmon, tuna, and sardines), nuts, tomatoes, and garlic, so if nothing else, add them into your diet as often as you can!
Exercising Your Way to a Healthy Heart: Staying physically active is a must when it comes to staying healthy, but everyone has a different level of movement that is most beneficial to them, so it's important to speak with your doctor about the best ways to stay active without over-stretching your body. As a general rule and good starting point, though, aim to get outside and moving for an hour every day with about half that time raising your heart rate slightly. Or, if you're a step counter, aim for around 7,000 steps a day. And yes, walking your dog, walking to the supermarket, playing with your kids or grandkids, and even walking to one of Marbella's incredible cafes or wine bars most definitely counts as part of your daily heart-healthy exercise!
Alcohol and Heart Health: Generally speaking, alcohol is not the healthiest option when on a strict heart-healthy diet and ideally, you would cut all alcohol from your diet. If that's too extreme though, try to limit your alcohol intake as much as possible and replace it as often as you can with water or green tea, which are both extremely healthy for your whole body, not just your heart. When you do choose to have the occasional alcoholic drink, have it with food (another reason we love the Spanish tapa culture!) and always allow your body a few alcohol-free days per week no matter how much you decide to drink. Not sure what tipple to indulge in? Red wine is the best option because of its high levels of antioxidants, followed by champagne (also high in antioxidants), whiskey (again, high antioxidant levels), tequila (it's low in calories and sugars), or kombucha (fermented tea that's traditionally low in alcohol and sugar).
It’s Time To Quit: Yes, if you want a healthy heart, you should stop smoking. But if you can't, cutting back is a great first step since recent studies show that not only is reducing your cigarette intake healthier, you're more likely to quit altogether once you start feeling the benefits of cleansing your system of nicotine. 'Vaping' can be a healthier way to fulfil your cigarette addiction, too, if you can't quit altogether. And if you're trying to quit but having a hard time, try chewing on gum (regular or nicotine versions), snack on raw vegetables (they'll help with the sensory addiction associated with smoking cigarettes), and talk to your doctor about regular check-ups so you can track your physical progress and encourage yourself to give it up for good.
Stress Can Affect Your Heart: Regular stress on your mind can cause regular stress on your body, including your heart. For a real heart-healthy lifestyle, cut back on stressful activities, practice deep breathing or meditation, and seek professional help from a trained doctor or therapist as needed. Learn more about the effects of stress on your heart in this CardioCare article.
Whether you're suffering from heart disease, at risk for developing heart disease, or are in the peak of heart health today, your heart deserves the best care, no matter what, and doing everything you can now to keep it in great health will be well worth the effort in the future.
No matter where you are on your heart health journey, you can count on CardioCare Marbella every step of the way. Our internationally-trained expert cardiologists offer the best in diagnostics, intervention, and care in Spain so you can rest assured that your health is always in the best of hands. Get in touch to book an appointment and let us help you get your heart health back on track!