10 ways to take better care of your Heart

Happy Valentine’s Day! Whilst you’re celebrating the day of love, we want to remind you how to take care of your body’s most important organ; your heart.

Here’s 10 ways that you can start taking better care of your heart today!

1. Schedule a Yearly Checkup

Your heart is in your hands. Each year on your birthday, schedule a checkup to have your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels checked, and ask your doctor to help you reach or maintain a healthy weight. Be sure to follow your healthcare professional’s recommendations, including taking prescribed medications as directed.

2. Get Physical

Step, march or jog in place for at least 15 minutes a day while watching your favorite TV shows. Increase your activity by five minutes each week until you’re getting a minimum of 30 minutes most days of the week.

If exercise and diet do not get you to your goal, ask your doctor about adding medication.

3. Drink More Water

Take a water bottle with you wherever you go. It’ll keep you hydrated and the bottle’s weight will strengthen your arms.

4. Eat Healthy

Keep packages of unhealthy food hidden. Put raw veggies and fruits in front in the refrigerator and healthy snacks in the front of the pantry, so that’s what you see first. If you grab healthy foods for a minimum of 21 times, healthy choices will become a habit.

Also, look for the American Heart Association red and white heart-check mark. This easy, reliable grocery shopping tool helps you identify foods that can be part of a sensible eating plan.

5. Control Cholesterol

Eating foods high in saturated fat, trans fat or cholesterol can lead to high blood cholesterol. To help keep your cholesterol levels down, eat foods low in saturated fat and trans fat, such as lean chicken or turkey (roasted or baked, with skin removed), fruits and veggies, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and whole grains.

6. Cut Down on Salt

To help lower high blood pressure, watch your salt intake. It may be disguised in food labels as sodium alginate, sodium sulfite, sodium caseinate, disodium phosphate, sodium benzoate, sodium hydroxide, monosodium glutamate (MSG), or sodium citrate.

7. Quit Smoking

Try this four-step way to kick your habit:

  • On Day 1, cut the number of cigarettes you smoke by half
  • On Day 3, cut the number of cigarettes you smoke in half again
  • And on Day 5, cut your smoking in half again
  • On your Quit Day… quit!

8. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Excess weight increases your risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. To achieve steady, painless weight loss, take it easy. Each day, if you eat 200-300 calories less than you would normally consume, and exercise at least 30 minutes on most or all days of the week, you’ll get closer to your goal and be able to achieve weight loss that’s steady and painless.

9. Stay Positive

If you get off your exercise schedule, have a cigarette, or eat a fattening meal, immediately get back on track toward re-establishing a healthy lifestyle.

10. Give Yourself Credit

To maintain momentum with exercising, losing weight, or quitting smoking, keep track of your achievements and reward yourself by doing something you enjoy.

Supervision and Precautions 

If you’ve experienced heart trouble or have had symptoms of heart failure, it’s CRITICAL for you to take some precautions when you exercise. In addition to getting exercise clearance from your doctor (who may want to run some tests), you should exercise under the supervision of a physiotherapist to maximise safety and effectiveness.

  • Remember to PACE yourself and rest when needed.
  • AVOID isometric exercises (like push-ups, sit-ups). Isometrics are generally associated with breath holding and excessive straining, also known as the Valsalva Manoeuvre. This can instantaneously shoot up your blood pressure! So listen to your body and let it dictate your breathing – NEVER hold your breath.
  • If it’s too cold, hot, or humid outdoors, it’s best to exercise indoors.  Extreme temperature can affect circulation and make you tired (or short of breath) fairly quickly.
  • Avoid extreme hot and cold showers, or sauna baths, especially after exercise. These extreme temperatures increase the workload on the heart.
  • Steer clear of exercise in hilly areas. If you must walk in steep areas, make sure you slow down when going uphill to avoid working too hard. Monitor your heart rate closely.
  • If your exercise program has been interrupted for more than a few days (illness, vacation or bad weather), make sure you ease back into the routine. Start with a reduced level of activity, and gradually increase it until you get back in the groove.

Word of Caution

Stop exercise if you experience any of the following symptoms of overload:

  • Chest pain
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Unexplained weight gain or swelling (call your doctor right away)
  • Pressure or pain in your chest, neck, arm, jaw or shoulder
  • Anything else that concerns you

If you continue to exercise despite these warning signs, you may be causing too much stress on your heart.

Your heart is critical to your long term health. You owe it to yourself and your loved ones to seek the expert supervision of a physiotherapist to create or modify your exercise program. This will allow your heart to function more effectively and improve the quality of your life.

If you want more information on the best heart health program for you, contact Physio Centers of Africa on 0813 028 0496 today!

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