Doctors often speak to patients about their cardiovascular health – and that’s no surprise considering that cardiovascular issues include heart disease that accounts for about a quarter of all deaths annually in the U.S.
Cardiovascular refers to heart health as well as all of the conditions of essential blood vessels. With that in mind, having problems with the cardiovascular system from blockages, for example, can also lead to heart failure and even strokes, the latter of which claims more than 140,000 lives across the country each year.
Seniors are at a higher risk for developing cardiovascular disease, but that doesn’t mean they can’t change their lifestyle to keep their cardiovascular system on a more even keel. Along with seeing a doctor regularly to detect warning signs of troubles, there are some other ways to give hearts a healthy boost, according to Honglan Wang, who has postdoctoral training in cardiovascular physiology. Below are four of the ways in which Honglan Wang states will help to maintain cardiovascular health. For more information about Honglan and her work, please visit www.honglan-wang.com.
Change What Goes into The Body
Diet plays a major role in cardiovascular health, and it’s not just about food. However, while food is on the table, so to speak, some heart-healthy plans include the Mediterranean diet that consists of eating fruits and vegetables daily, while also boosting intake of fish and decreasing intake of red meat.
Guidelines for salt and sugar intake should also be followed. While the daily value for sodium is lower than 2,300 mg daily, most Americans are putting away 3,400 mg on average. Too much salt lowers the kidneys’ ability to remove water from the body, thus increasing blood pressure. Meanwhile, excessive added sugars are linked to diabetes and heart disease and should be kept to about 37.5 grams per day (men) and 25 grams daily (women.) To illustrate this better, that’s roughly 9 teaspoons and 6 teaspoons of sugar, respectively.
Losing weight is also beneficial to cardiovascular health, but it’s not just about reducing the number of calories like some fad diets tout. It’s about the quality of food and eating a balanced diet that’s the key.
It’s no secret that breathing cigarette smoke into the lungs can also have negative impacts on the heart and vessels. However, what is not such common knowledge, says Honglan Wang, is that smoking ranks atop the list of preventable risk factors for developing heart disease. That’s because carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke reduces oxygen in the body and puts additional strain on the heart by increasing blood pressure and heart rate in order to supply other organs and tissues.
Change What the Body Does
Getting a proper amount of exercise is another favorite topic of doctors, often using the term “sedentary lifestyle” and connecting this lack of movement to cardiovascular risks. But it doesn’t have to be three hours of powerlifting at the gym to get the cardiovascular benefits.
In fact, guidelines suggest only 30 minutes of exercise is needed daily to keep the heart in check, and they can be moderate activities. For example, gardening is one of the activities Honglan Wang enjoys when not leading pharmaceutical teams, and it counts towards the weekly exercise total.
Some claims say that half an hour of gardening – which can be raking leaves, digging up weeds, or manually trimming shrubs – burns more calories than 45 minutes of aerobics. Other examples of moderate exercise include brisk walking, bicycling on level ground, slow dancing, and aerobic swimming.
Getting a proper amount of exercise is also a natural way to manage stress, which is another marker when it comes to the risk of developing heart disease. While regular exercise can help you better cope with stress and feel more relaxed, it can also improve blood circulation. What’s more, is that vigorous exercise such as running or playing sports can reduce heart disease risk by 20 percent according to a study.
Sleep on It
Lack of sleep does more than causing a groggy feeling during the day – it also can contribute to cardiovascular disease risk.
Adults should aim for a minimum of seven hours of sleep each night; however, there could be some health issues such as sleep apnea keeping them from achieving this. It’s important for a doctor to address the cause of insomnia or interrupted sleep because it can spike the risk of obesity and high blood pressure, among other health issues.
Get Regular Medical Checkups
As a professional with related experience, Honglan Wang urges adults to see a doctor regularly to screen for risk factors such as diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure, the latter that can be present without any symptoms.