Truly, the heart is an amazing organ. And while science and medicine have given us more tools to treat and repair damaged or malfunctioning hearts, the best and most effective way to keep your heart healthy is to make positive changes to your diet, get a moderate amount of exercise, and avoid risk factors for heart disease like smoking. You can read more about simple ways to start improving your heart health on the Meritage Medical Network blog.
So, why is heart health so important? First of all, the heart is responsible for powering most of the essential processes that keep our body alive and healthy. By pumping blood throughout the circulatory system, the heart helps transport oxygen to our vital organs, helps the immune system function properly, helps carry waste away, and so much more! In fact, the heart pumps approximately 1.5 gallons of blood – every minute! And the heart is such an essential part of our body that it starts beating as early as 4 weeks after we start developing in the womb.
Because your heart plays such an important role in your overall health, it should come as no surprise that having a healthy heart can help you live longer and enjoy a much better quality of life, especially in your later years. And one of the most amazing things about the body is that even the smallest steps toward becoming healthier at any stage of life can have dramatic impacts on your well-being. For example, getting just 10 extra minutes of moderate exercise in each day (by walking, climbing stairs instead of taking the elevator, etc.) can cut your risk of heart disease in half.
The Mayo Clinic has developed a simple slogan to help take the first steps toward improving your heart health: Eat 5, Move 10, and Sleep 8. Every day, you should eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, get active for 10 minutes, and sleep 8 hours. You don’t have to cut out other foods, and you don’t have to buy a gym membership – you just have to make small, simple changes to achieve substantial benefits for your heart. And once you’ve made those changes, you can build on them.
Another excellent thing about taking steps to improve your heart health is that every little thing you do (eating better, getting more active, etc.) to make your heart healthier will also help improve your overall health. You’ll start to sleep better, you’ll get sick less often, you’ll feel more energetic, you’ll lose weight, and your risks for many other diseases will lessen.
Obviously, heart health is important, and while taking simple steps to improve your wellness can have a meaningful impact on your health, there are many other ways to get a more accurate and comprehensive impression of how healthy your heart truly is. Below are some tests and other factors that can help determine heart healthiness:
- Cholesterol: an optimal total cholesterol score should be less than 180mg/dL
- Blood pressure: your goal should be to have less than 120/80 mmHg Fasting glucose: less than 100 mg/dL is ideal
- Body mass index (BMI): your BMI should be in the range between 18.5 and 25 kg/m2
- Waist circumference: generally, if your BMI is greater than 25 kg/m2, it’s best for men to have a waist circumference 40 inches or less and women to have a waist circumference of 35 inches or less
- Physical activity: optimal physical activity levels should include 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity at least 5 times a week or 25 minutes of vigorous activity at least 3 days per week. Ideally, these aerobic activities should be combined with moderate to high intensity strength training for additional health benefits.
- Tobacco: quitting smoking can have immediate and dramatic effects on one’s health; if you already don’t smoke, it’s ideal to avoid secondhand smoke as well.
- Alcohol: women should strive to enjoy no more than one drink per day, and men should have no more than 2 drinks per day.
If you’d like to speak to a doctor about your heart and develop a plan to improve your heart health, you can use Meritage Medical Network’s convenient “find a doctor” feature on our homepage. Meritage Medical Network is a healthcare network representing local physician members in Marin, Napa, and Sonoma Counties. Our expert medical and administrative staff are dedicated to ensuring that you receive the highest quality health care available.