Heart disease has been one of the leading causes of death in Hong Kong since the 60s. When thinking about ways to promote our heart health, the first thing that usually comes to people’s mind is to quit smoking or limit alcohol consumption.
But there are many more ways to be proactive about your heart health and to protect yourself from cardiovascular disease. Here are 5 simple yet powerful tips from cardiologist Dr. Adrian Cheong.
#1 Eat Your Way to a Healthy Heart
A healthy diet is an indispensable step for a healthy heart. Here are some key points to remember when eating towards a better heart health:
– Limit sodium intake: As consuming a high amount of sodium (from salt) can lead to high blood pressure (a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease), you should limit your salt intake to less than 6 grams a day. Be careful of ready-made or processed foods because they usually contains high levels of sodium.
– Avoid unhealthy fats: Watch out for saturated fat and trans-fat – two unhealthy fats. These can raise the level of low-density lipoprotein (a.k.a. “bad” cholesterol) in your blood, of which a high level is associated with increased risk of heart disease. Unhealthy fats are normally found in animal products such as meat, butter, milk and egg yolks. Try to cut down on these foods and restrict your daily fat intake. regardless of healthy fats or not, to no more than 30%, with unhealthy fats to less than 10%, of your daily energy intake.
– Eat more fibre: Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables for example are high in soluble fibre which helps lower the risk of cardiovascular disease by preventing the reabsorption of excess cholesterol that has been eliminated into the gut.
* While fibre-rich foods are generally good for us, we should always maintain a well-balanced diet. This means plenty – but not excessive – amount of fibre intake every day.
#2 Exercise Regularly
We all know that exercise is important to our overall health and the good news is that it is not necessary to choose vigorous aerobic exercise in order to strengthen our heart. Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection suggests that (at least) 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of high-intensity physical activity throughout the week is sufficient for improving heart health. In fact, moderate aerobic activities like brisk walking and cycling can already do you good.
Sitting in front of your desk all day and having a hard time to fit an exercise session into your busy schedule? Take the stairs instead of the lift or go for a short walk instead of taking a taxi. Not only will you be able to exercise a little instead of not exercising at all, but you will also work better after the break.
#3 Adopt Good Sleeping Habits
According to the American Heart Association, most people need 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. Not enough or too much sleep per night can increase the risk of heart problems. A study in 2019 shows that individuals who slept less than 6 hours every night were at a 20% higher risk of a heart attack while those with more than 9 hours of sleep each night had their risk of a heart attack increased by 34%. Therefore, try your best to get 7 to 8 hours of good-quality sleep per night.
Check the articles below to find out other ways to get better sleep:
#4 Manage Your Stress Level
While more studies are required to determine whether stress directly causes heart disease, it has been established that stress is correlated to cardiovascular problems. A simple way to understand how stress can contribute to an unhealthy heart is to think about what you usually do and how you feel when you are stressed. For some people, it’s binge-eating, binge-drinking, or neglecting sleep – and such habits have been proven to affect your heart health.
#5 Stay Hydrated
All of body’s organs and cells need water in order to function properly. Dehydration can bring mild discomfort to severe health conditions such as rapid heartbeat and fainting. In addition, our heart is continuously working, pumping blood to our muscles which helps improve muscular efficiency. A well-hydrated body helps its heart to do the job better as a hydrated heart can pump blood easier, allowing the muscles to work more efficient.
Since each individual’s daily water intake can vary, you may check the guide below to estimate the amount of water you should drink per day.
Bonus: Do a Body Check-up Every Year
There are some types of heart disease whose symptoms can be very subtle and hard to notice. This means it is best to get a body check-up regularly to ensure that your heart is strong and healthy.
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