The Key to a Happy Beat

February is American Heart month, a time to celebrate the most important organ in the human body. When you don’t take care of your heart health, your whole quality of life diminishes. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for more than 25% of every single death. This is an astoundingly high percentage, especially for a disease that can be managed by simple factors like diet and exercise. Being physically active is one of your most effective tools for strengthening your heart muscles. Exercise also helps keep your weight under control and wards off the artery damage from high cholesterol, high blood sugar and high blood pressure that can lead to heart attack or stroke. It’s critical that everyone learns effective ways to take care of their heart so that it doesn’t fall apart.

3 Exercise Components for a Healthy Heart

  1. Aerobic exerciseimproves your circulation and results in lowered blood pressure and heart rate. It also increases your oxygen levels, which strengthens your heart and lungs, and improves your cardiovascular system. Examples include hiking, walking, biking, swimming, aerobic dancing and jumping rope.

  2. Resistance training (or strength work) has a more specific effect on body composition. For people who are carrying a lot of body fat (including a big belly, which is a risk factor for heart disease), resistance training can help reduce fat and create leaner muscle mass. Some different types of exercises include: lifting weights, resistance bands, or using your own body weight by doing pushups, pull ups, or sit-ups.

  3. Flexibility workouts such as stretching don’t directly impact heart health however they do benefit musculoskeletal health. Creating a regular stretching routine enables you to stay flexible and free from joint pain, cramping and other muscular issues, which helps your aerobic exercise and resistance training. Examples include: Yoga, Stretchercise, Dance and Tai chi.

How Can You Strengthen Your Ticker?

  1. Eat healthy.
  2. Get active.
  3. Stay at a healthy weight.
  4. Do heart healthy exercises.
  5. Manage stress (silent enemy).
  6. Drink alcohol only in moderation.
  7. Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.
  8. Cultivate loving relationships.
  9. Be consistent.
  10. Stay within your limits.

An Aging Heart

Aging causes changes in the heart and blood vessels and may increase your risk of heart disease. For example, as you get older, your heart can’t beat as fast during physical activity or times of stress as it did when you were younger. However, the number of heart beats per minute (your heart rate) at rest does not change significantly with normal aging.

I always say to my students that age is just a number — you can keep your strength up and get stronger no matter what age you are. I hope you take these words to heart, and live smart!

This article originally appeared in the Coastal Breeze.

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