It’s important to keep our heart in check to make sure we are keeping it as healthy as we can. Good cardiovascular health is central to overall good health and could even help extend your life.
In order to do that, you may need to break some bad habits. Daniel Green, MD, a cardiologist with Bon Secours Upstate Cardiology, discusses three of the worst habits for your heart health here.
Being a couch potato
Too much time sitting has been linked to cognitive decline, more frailty and increased risk of death. So, it’s important to get your heart beating during regular exercise.
“We recommend about 150 minutes a week of high intensity physical activity,” Dr. Green shares.
However, you don’t have to do it all at once.
“Break that down to 40 minutes every other day or four days a week,” he adds. “I recommend doing something where it would be hard to have a conversation. If you’re walking along and chatting with friends, you’re probably not getting the same level of exercise.”
If you’re not used to exercising regularly, it’s understandable that just getting started can be daunting. Dr. Green says that the secret is taking that first step and then just putting one foot in front of the other. Start with two to five minutes a day, then build up from there until you hit the recommended 150 minutes per week. Also, try to find the fun.
“If you can link it to something you enjoy like a podcast or TV show, you can reward yourself,” Dr. Green shares. “Tell yourself you’re only watching that TV show when you’re exercising to link those things and treat yourself while you’re doing it.”
Skipping out on sleep
Exercise isn’t the only metric that’s key to keeping your heart healthy. It’s also important to get an adequate amount of sleep each night. Dr. Green recommends getting a full seven to nine hours each night.
“Most people probably aren’t getting enough hours of sleep, which can lead to high stress levels, high blood pressure and even heart rhythm problems in people with sleep apnea,” he shares. “If you’re waking up feeling yourself dozing off during the day or feel like you’re needing a couple cups of coffee, then you’re probably not getting enough rest.”
Staying stressed out
It’s also important to find some time to destress. Staying stressed out can increase your blood pressure and heart rate, which over time can result in a heart attack, stroke and other serious damage. That much tension can also weigh down your overall health.
“Overall, stress leads to the habits that make you unhealthy,” Dr. Green says. “People who have higher stress levels tend to exercise less, tend to use food or alcohol to comfort themselves – and those are all unhealthy habits to get into. The best thing to do is deal with the stress, which can help lead you to those healthy habits. “
To lower your stress, make time for yourself and find ways to relax. Give yourself total quiet every day, even if just for a few minutes, practice deep breathing and meditation or just get outdoors to enjoy nature. Having a solid support system is also important – don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Learn about the cardiology services we offer at Bon Secours.