Maricopa Emergency Management System Alert

Wellness Wednesday: Can’t Heart-ly Wait

Hands making a heart shape

Wellness Wednesday: Can’t Heart-ly Wait

The Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz wanted something that many of us take for granted: a heart. Aside from our brains, the human heart is the most important organ in our bodies. Think of it as a traffic conductor in your chest, directing vital oxygen and nutrients throughout your body through your blood vessels. Your heart also helps your body carry away unwanted carbon dioxide and waste products. Staying heart-healthy is an essential habit to cultivate to live a long and healthy life.

Power-Up Your Heart

Like a character in a video game, there are things you can do to power up your heart and make it stronger and more resilient. Consider making some (or all!) of these practices a part of your daily life.

  • Exercise: Your heart is a muscle, so it goes without saying that exercise will do it a world of good. The key is to monitor your heart (more on that below) and find an activity you enjoy. It doesn’t necessarily have to be high impact—even a regular walking regiment can give you the cardiovascular boost you need to have a steadier, healthier heart rate.

  • Quit smoking: Quitting can be a challenge but it’s worth the effort. Smoking is a major factor for heart disease. Here are some strategies that can help you quit smoking and keep you from falling back into bad habits.
  • Lose weight: Obesity and a high BMI can also lead to heart problems later in life, as well as put you at risk for diabetes and high blood pressure. Lose weight through a combination of exercise and healthy diet to have a healthier heart. Consult a doctor before starting an exercise plan if this is new for you.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet: Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat protein sources like skinless chicken breasts, eggs, and lentils are excellent sources of heart-healthy nutrition. You’ll also want to avoid foods that are high in fats and sodium.
  • Wine and chocolate: Here’s the fun stuff. Cocoa (the key ingredient in chocolate) and wine are both full of antioxidants that can increase good cholesterol, decrease bad cholesterol, and improve blood vessel and blood-clotting functions. Moderation is key: too much of a good thing in this case is very bad for you. But a drink now and then for most people can provide you with a strong dose of antioxidants. As for chocolate: consuming a half-ounce up to 3.5 ounces of chocolate can improve cardiovascular health and reduce the risk of stroke (dark tends to be more highly concentrated than milk chocolate - stick with 72 percent or higher cocoa content).
  • Don’t stress out: Stress is the silent killer. Learning methods to relax yourself and ease your stress is one of the best things you can do for your heart. Stress can speed up your heart rate and spike your blood pressure. Manage your stress through relaxation techniques before it gets the better of you.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself

You can gauge the intensity of your workouts by monitoring your heart rate. Thanks to the prevalence of smartwatches and fitness trackers these days, it's easier than ever to have a reliable tracker on hand. To figure out your maximum heart rate (which is the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can safely handle during exercise), subtract your age from 220. This is the average maximum number of times your heart should beat per minute during exercise. The American Heart Association recommends hitting a heart rate of either moderate intensity (50-70% of your maximum rate) or vigorous intensity (70-85%). If you haven’t exercised in awhile or are recuperating from injuries or sickness, you’re better off aiming for the lower end of your range.

Share this article