3 simple swaps for better heart health – Harvard Health
3 simple swaps for better heart health Busy days make it hard to put heart health on the front burner. It just feels like you don’t have time for habits that keep the ticker in top shape — like exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and eating a healthy diet. So maybe you take the stairs when you can, or you park farther away from a store to rack up a few extra steps each day. But what else can you do? Here are three things that might fit in your schedule. It’s fine if texting, emailing, social media, or Zoom calls are your primary means of communicating with others. But it’s not okay if those methods leave you feeling lonely or isolated — two problems linked to higher risks for heart disease, heart attack, or stroke, according to a scientific statement from the American Heart Association in the Journal of the American Heart Association. To combat loneliness and isolation, try to replace some of your electronic back-and-forth with people with in-person meetings. Maybe you can find room in your schedule for a quick walk, cup of coffee, or brief lunch with a friend or colleague. “Time spent face-to-face helps connect you to others and may make you feel less isolated,” explains Matthew Lee, a sociologist and research associate at Harvard University’s Human Flourishing Program. “Being physically co-present can help you feel more engaged with others, more valued, and more likely to feel a sense of shared identity — all things that may help ease loneliness. This is why some doctors are starting to engage in ‘social prescribing,’ including suggesting that people get involved in volunteering and other activities that build in-person social relationships.” A recent study published in the International Journal of Public Health by Lee and a team of Harvard-led researchers suggests that better social connectedness may reduce the risk of being diagnosed with depression or anxiety. Both are associated with heart disease or making existing heart conditions worse. Is your typical breakfast something quick and full of refined (not whole) grains, processed meat, saturated fat, or added sugar? Eating that kind of food regularly may drive up calories, weight, blood sugar, or cholesterol levels — and that’s not good for your heart. Instead, chose breakfast foods rich in fiber, a type of carbohydrate that either passes through the body undigested (insoluble fiber) or dissolves into a gel (soluble fiber) that coats the gut. Fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains (oats, barley, quinoa) and many other foods are rich in fiber. Try these fiber-rich breakfast ideas: If you ever take a break from your busy day to scroll through news on your phone or computer, chances are you can also find a little time to meditate, which is important for heart health. Research indicates that people who meditate have lower rates of high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and coronary artery disease compared with people who don’t meditate. What’s the connection? Meditating triggers the body’s relaxation response, a well-studied physiological change that appears to help lower your blood pressure, heart rate, breathing rate, oxygen consumption, adrenaline levels, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The great news: it doesn’t take much time to reap the heart-healthy benefits of meditating — just about 10 to 20 minutes per day. Ideas for quick ways to meditate in a busy day include sitting quietly, closing your eyes, and Just try to calm your brain for a few minutes a day. Soon, you may find you’ve become better at meditating and better at practicing other heart-healthy habits, no matter how busy you are. As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician. The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more. Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss…from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.
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