What Mayo Clinic experts wish you knew about your heart
By Mayo Clinic Staff
The heart never takes a day or even a second off. It pumps 1.5 gallons of blood per minute, even when you’re sleeping, stressed or focused.
When it comes to taking care of your heart, you’ve probably heard the usual advice: Eat a healthy diet and exercise more. But what does that really mean? And what else can you do to keep your heart beating 100,000 times a day well into old age?
Mayo Clinic experts offer this advice for avoiding heart disease and reducing cardiovascular risks.
Brush and floss
What’s good for your teeth is good for your heart, so brush, floss and get regular dental checkups. People with tooth loss, an indicator of poor dental health, appear to be at higher risk of heart disease.
Research shows that people who are lonely have an increased risk of heart disease. Reach out to friends and family. If it’s safe for you, find an outdoor walking group, connect through volunteer work, or simply be near others at a gym or coffee shop.
Schedule relaxation time
People with stressful jobs or those who experience stressful life events, like a death of a loved one, divorce or family rift, have an increased risk of heart disease.
Set boundaries that make sense for you. This could mean delegating tasks, blocking your calendar for lunch or asking feuding family members to leave you out of it. Take breaks from stressful situations as you can and ask loved ones for support.
Sleep like you mean it
Studies found an increased risk of high blood pressure and heart disease in people who slept less than 7 hours a night. But those who slept more than 9 hours a night also had higher rates of heart disease than people who slept closer to 8 hours.
The odds of having a heart attack go up the day after being sleep deprived due to a rise in blood pressure. If you can’t get enough sleep, help protect your blood pressure by choosing low-sodium foods and avoiding alcohol.
To get better sleep:
Avoid heavy meals a couple of hours before bed.
Create a restful bedroom away from screens, loud noises and lights.
Have a calming pre-bedtime routine. That could involve a shower, reading or tidying up the house.
Put a doctor’s appointment on your calendar
See your healthcare provider for annual checkups. This will help you address issues like elevated blood pressure and cholesterol levels before they become bigger problems.
Have some fish
Omega-3 fatty acids are heart-healthy fats that occur naturally in walnuts, flaxseed, and oily fish like tuna, salmon and trout. Omega-3s are associated with healthier cholesterol levels, blood pressure and heart rate.
Eat a fruit or vegetable at every meal
A first step toward a heart-healthy diet is to aim for 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. A side effect of prioritizing produce is that you don’t leave as much room for foods high in fat, calories or sugar.
Limit foods high in salt and saturated fat in the diet. They are linked to high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Saturated fat is in red meat, lard, cream, butter and dairy with fat. To further eat heart smart, swap in whole-grain versions of bread, pasta and cereal.
Don’t get duped into vaping
Vaping is often seen as a healthier alternative to smoking cigarettes. But like smoking, vaping is associated with high blood pressure, artery health issues and increased heart rate. These are all linked to higher risk of heart attack.
Dance in the kitchen
Physical activity contributes to a healthy weight, blood pressure and blood sugar levels. But it doesn’t have to be drudgery. Get out and do what you like: Stroll through the neighborhood, kick a soccer ball or dance in the kitchen.
Exercise improves heart function and the ability to move oxygen around the body. But if you feel pain or find yourself short of breath, take a break.
Symptoms of heart disease
Heart disease can become serious quickly, so schedule a checkup with your doctor if you notice any of these symptoms:
Shortness of breath
Fatigue and weakness
Swelling in the legs, ankles and feet
Rapid or irregular heartbeat
Reduced ability to exercise
Persistent cough or wheezing with white or pink blood-tinged mucus
Swelling of the belly area
Very rapid weight gain
Nausea and lack of appetite