The heart is one of the most vital organs of the human body. It is a muscular organ located in the chest region, usually on the left in humans.
The heart, along with the blood vessels form the cardiovascular (circulatory) system which is responsible for the pumping and circulation of blood around the body. This process continues all through the lifetime of an individual.
Apart from genetic factors that can affect the function of the heart, some lifestyle habits can either increase or reduce the functions of the heart. Many hearts conditions are preventable with the proper lifestyle choices.
Some Common heart Conditions
The heart is well equipped for its functions with cardiac muscles for pumping of blood and elasticity, and blood vessels (arteries, veins, capillaries) which take blood into and out of the heart.
The difficulty or inability of the heart to pump blood for circulation is the evidence of a heart disease.
Heart diseases can range from high and low blood pressure, abnormal heart beats, to more serious symptoms like myopathy, palpitations, endocarditis, heart attack and even heart failure.
Several heart diseases have their diverse causes which could be heredity, substance abuse, other disease conditions (such as obesity), dietary factors (excessive intake of salt, fats and oil).
Life style habits prevents heart diseases
In as much as certain Lifestyle Choices bring about the onset of heart disease, there are a vast majority of lifestyle habits that will enhance proper heart functioning and ultimately prevent heart diseases.
Below are 10 Lifestyle Habits that can reduce the risk of heart diseases.
- Physical Activity
- Adequate Nutrition
- Maintaining a Normal Body Weight
- Adequate Rest/Sleep
- Stress Management
- Proper Hydration
- Abstinence from Smoking and Alcoholism
- Improved Environmental Conditions
- Better Occupational Choices
- Frequent Medical Evaluations.
Increased Physical Activity
Several Research has shown that individuals who engage in mild to moderate regular physical activity have minimal risk of heart diseases.
Dr. Edward R. Laskowski of the Mayo Clinic suggest that the average adult should engage in 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity in a 7 day cycle.
When this is not possible at least 75 minutes of intense vigorous activities per week would suffice. These Aerobic exercises could be dancing, running and walking at brisk pace.
These activities enhances cardiovascular fitness by increasing the amount of blood circulated to the tissues for tissue respiration, which in turns reduces the blood pressure.
Also, physical activities like walking, cycling, and housekeeping have tremendous benefits to the heart.
Nutrition and Balanced Diet
The habit of eating a healthy diet is essential in the prevention of heart disease.
Diet heavy in cholesterol, saturated fat and sodium chloride (salt) should be avoided since they encourage the development of atherosclerosis – a fairly common heart conditions that happens when there is excess accumulation of fat in the vessels that eventually cause narrowing or blocking of the vessels.
Fresh organic food, vegetables, legumes, healthy fats (especially from dairy Products), lean meats and fish are to be chosen over processed foods to protect the heart.
Maintain a Normal Body Weight
The Body Mass Index (BMI) is a simple way to determine an individual’s risk of obesity. Being Overweight (a BMI greater than 25Kg/m2.) or obese (a BMI greater than 30kg/m2) increases a person’s risk of coronary heart diseases, according to research.
This is because a BMI greater than 30kg/m2 is associated with hypertension which is a risk factor for coronary heart disease.
Maintaining a Normal Body Weight (BMI of 18.5-24.9 kg/m2) relieves the heart of much stress of pumping blood to a larger body area thereby promoting better functioning.
An overweight individually has excess fat deposits that could potentially narrow blood vessels and increase the amount of energy required for the heart to drive blood circulation.
In order to maintain normal BMI, Physical exercise has to be incorporated in the daily routine. Also, the intake of high-calorie foods should be minimized when maintaining a normal body weight.
Rest and sleep do not only benefit the muscles and other organs of the body, the heart benefits greatly as well.
During the period of rest, the heart is not under intense pressure to pump blood unlike in periods of activity. Rest and sleep eases the heart of stress, meanwhile aiding to normalize blood pressure.
To get the best out of rest, experts suggest that an increase in bright light exposure during the day time will enhances sleep at night. During the evenings, reduce contact with blue light from mobile phones and other computer devices.
Reading a hard copy book before bed can also improve sleep. A range of 7-9 hours of sleep is considered as healthy
Dealing with the causes of the stress and living a happy and stress free life will positively contribute to better heart functioning.
A common way of dealing with stress is meditation. Having leisure time to ease yourself by engaging in a hobby, and unwinding is also a good stress management technique.
Two Thirds of the entire body mass is made up of fluids (water) and about 70% of the blood pumped by the heart is a fluid – plasma.
This shows that the body system and the blood consists mainly of fluids, hence Hydration is necessary for proper functioning of the body, the heart inclusive.
A reduction in fluid volume in the body makes the blood more viscous and blood is pumped with great difficulty which could lead to cardiac myopathy in extreme conditions.
Proper Hydration involves consuming a range of 6-8 ounces of water per day. Prolonged exposure to extremely hot weather conditions can lead to rapid loss of body fluid, hence maintaining a healthy environmental temperature can reduce dehydration through sweating and by extension improve cardiac health .
Abstinence from Smoking and Alcoholism
Certain Chemicals in Cigarette smoke like carbon monoxide displaces the oxygen in your blood thereby reducing oxygen supply to tissues.
When oxygen supply to tissues are reduced, there is increase in heart rate and cardiac output to match oxygen delivery to tissues. This means the heart increases its work load, stretching its capacity.
Also, increased alcohol consumption has been observed to cause high blood pressure by increasing cortisol activity in the body.
Quitting smoking and excess alcohol consumption will curb the detrimental effect of increased cardiac workload and elevated blood pressure, keeping the heart safe.
Avoiding Contaminants by improving Environmental Conditions
Exposure to environmental pollutants and toxicants is known to cause damage to the heart. Chemicals like lead, arsenic, pesticide and radiation in the environment increases the risk of heart diseases such as ischemic heart attack and high blood pressure.
Living and working in well ventilated environments will is a good way of reducing the concentration of pollutants inhaled per time.
Improved Occupational Choices
Certain occupations, work environment and working conditions can play a role in the development of heart disease especially high BP.
Research has shown that individuals working with metals, pesticides and those involved in stressful and tasking jobs have an increased risk of heart disease.
It is therefore of note that when choosing an occupation, better considerations be made concerning the work environment and conditions in which the job will be executed.
Negotiating for healthier working conditions and for safety equipment like coveralls and nose masks can reduce exposure to occupational hazards that pose risk to the heart.
Regular Health Status Evaluation
Regular medical screenings are essential for preserving the health of the heart.
Routine health checkups semiannually can be vital in spotting asymptomatic indicators of heart diseases and aid in curbing them early.
High blood Sugar levels, high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure pose immense threat to the Safety of the heart: these conditions can be diagnosed early through regular health status evaluation.
Frequent medical checks can unravel early stages of various health conditions and generally improve treatment plans.
The heart is a tireless organ that plays a vital role in the pumping of blood and the circulation of blood around the body.
Several Lifestyle changes can be adopted to increase cardiac and health and prevent heart diseases.
Ezra Ehoche is a passionate Freelance writer who specializes in the health, wellness and fitness niche. He is the founder of tophealthwriter.com. His Twitter handle is @ezraehoche