Written by Gym Plus resident nutritionist, Alex Dobbs
February, being heart health month is a great time to focus on cardiovascular health.
A lot of us presume our heart is in good shape. Beating more than 2.5 billion times in your lifetime, it works incredibly hard pumping enough blood to deliver a continuous supply of oxygen and other nutrients to the brain and the other vital organs.
While some of the major risk factors such as high blood cholesterol or high blood pressure can be “invisible” to the naked eye there are some more obvious risk factors we can influence right away: being overweight, an unhealthy diet and lack of exercise.
Let’s look at the factors influencing heart health and how you can improve your own heart health:
Focus on healthy foods
Cut down on eating prepared meals, take-aways and other heavily processed foods. Instead, focus your energy on learning to cook a handful of simple, healthy, yummy meals that you can rotate on a weekly basis. Having just a few recipes under your belt will help motivate you to eat well, know which ingredients to buy every week, and it make a long-term transition to healthy eating so much easier.
A healthy heart diet should include lots of Omega 3 fatty acids such as fatty fish, nuts and seeds. Also make sure to cover half of your dinner plate with fresh green vegetables. Reduce sugar and eat a Low GI diet (Glycemic Index, the measure how fast foods digest and make their sugars available to your body, the higher the GI the worse for your heart health). Try to reduce the amount of alcohol you drink in any one session by alternating alcoholic with nonalcoholic drinks.
Fitness is central to good heart health for many reasons, but not least because you exercise the single most important muscle in your body, your heart. Exercise doesn’t have to be hard, it doesn’t have to be boring or competitive. The most important thing about starting to exercise is that you find a physical activity you enjoy.
Cardiologists recommend moderate-intensity exercise two or three days a week for at least 30 minutes. You should break a sweat and be a little short of breath during good moderate-intensity exercise. Then take part in a longer activity for at least one hour or more one day a week. This can be high-intensity such as a HIIT class or a lower-intensity activity such as cycling a bike or playing golf.
Furthermore, strength training exercises increase your lean muscle mass, giving your cardiovascular system places to send the blood being pumped. This results in less pressure on your arteries, which helps reduce the chances of heart-related problems.
The best way of achieving a solid exercise routine is joining the gym and meeting with expert trainers who can help you establish realistic goals. Gym Plus offer an excellent range of cardio equipment, 30+ fun fitness classes a week and state of the art free weights and functional training areas.
Heart Health is also about being kind to yourself
It is scientifically proven that stress has a negative impact on your heart health. Stress can kill. So, ensure to make de-stressing an integral part of every day in your life. How can you destress? Start with self-compassion. You are enough just as you are. You don’t have to strive all day long. It is good to sit down at some stage, take a book, do some drawing, take an exercise class, go for a walk, or take time to cook a nice meal. Learn to accept yourself and be kind to yourself. Don’t strive for perfection, instead start taking these few simple steps you can take on your journey to better health this month:
- Eat well
- Enjoy your exercise
- Be kind to yourself
Now, what better time to start working on your heart health than Cupid’s month of February? Make sure to love someone this month as you love yourself – in the name of improving your heart health.