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August 16, 2023

It’s true– lifestyle does make a difference in your overall wellness, especially when it comes to your cardiovascular health. Poor diet, little to no exercise, and smoking can significantly increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Take a look at these 5 heart-healthy lifestyle changes you can start today to begin a journey to better health:

1. Get regular health checks.

patient with doctor

It’s vital to understand your potential risk of heart disease, so if you have a family history of heart problems, you should be taking preventive measures to protect yourself. One of the best ways is by getting regular health checks for blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. We also dig deeper into other elevated markers consistent with heart disease, including uric acid and homocysteine levels. A few other tests to determine cardiovascular risk are the high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, apolipoprotein B, and Lp(a) tests. All of these protein and acid levels in the body help provide a more comprehensive assessment. Being in regular communication with a healthcare provider is essential to catching issues before they become a larger problem.

2. Improve your eating habits.

A step you can take today towards a heart-healthy lifestyle is improving your diet. A diet limiting sugar, salt, and saturated fats and high in protein and fiber is recommended for optimal heart function and wellness. By no means an exhaustive list, here are a few heart-healthy foods that would be beneficial to add to your meals:

  • Leafy greens (spinach, kale, collard greens, cabbage, and broccoli)
  • Organic Whole grains (brown rice, whole-grain bread, and oats)
  • Fruits such as apples, bananas, prunes, pears, and oranges
  • Fish such as salmon and tuna for the Omega-3 fatty acids
  • Lean proteins (chicken, pork, and turkey)
  • Eggs and low-fat dairy
  • Nuts, seeds, and beans
  • Avocadoes

Improving your eating habits isn’t about necessarily eating less or not having dessert or your favorite snack every once in a while, but more about a balanced, maintainable diet filled with foods you enjoy while also making sure you're getting the nutrients you need. This means consciously reading food labels, choosing low-fat and low-sodium options, and eating at home more often.

Other factors to consider are pesticides, GMOs, and antibiotic-fed meat. These toxic chemicals can have harmful effects on your body. The Environmental Working Group has provided two helpful lists, the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen so you’re better equipped to buy safe produce at the grocery store that’s not grown from genetically modified seeds. When it comes to buying meat, it’s important to know the difference between grass-fed and grain-fed. Grass-fed doesn’t necessarily mean that the animal only ate grass. It can simply mean the animal was started on a grass diet but later received grain or transitioned to a full-grain diet. Purely grass-fed meat will also have the label grass-finished, meaning that the animal ate nothing but grass for its entire life. Grass-fed, grass-finished meat results in less fat content and more Omega-3 fatty acids, Vitamins A and E, and other antioxidants than grain-fed. In addition, the meat quality of livestock raised at a CAFO (concentrated animal feeding organization) is reduced, as well as changing the composition of fatty acids in the meat which contributes to higher inflammation levels in the human body.

3. Engage in consistent physical activity.

woman walking outside

Adults should engage in at least 2 ½ hours of moderate physical activity each week to maintain weight and general well-being. Remember that some exercise is better than nothing, so start where you can and celebrate each victory, no matter how small. Simple actions like parking further away from a store entrance or taking the stairs instead of an elevator can go a long way in promoting a heart-healthy lifestyle. Ask someone to help you be accountable by joining a workout class or walking together. Physical activity doesn’t have to be something you dread– find an activity you love like swimming or pickleball. Your future self will thank you!

4. Quit smoking and limit alcohol.

One of the most important things you can do for your health journey is to quit smoking, and if you don’t currently smoke, determine never to start. Smoking greatly increases the chance of heart disease, and there is support out there to help you quit. Please don’t hesitate to contact us to get the help you need. In addition, alcohol abuse is another risk factor to take into consideration when looking to improve your lifestyle. Not only is it adding unnecessary calories and sugar to your diet, but it also raises your blood pressure and can contribute to or worsen heart problems and other chronic conditions.

5. Incorporate daily supplements into your routine.

man holding pill and glass of water

Finally, an easy heart-healthy lifestyle change is taking a daily supplement. A few we can recommend in our wellness shop include CitraNOX, which helps to preserve coronary arteries, enhance nitric oxide levels, and maintain cell elasticity, and CoQ-10, which supports healthy blood sugar levels and cell energy production for overall heart health benefits.

You’re well on your way to feeling your best with these heart-healthy lifestyle changes. At Freedom Functional Medicine, we strive to work with you and your doctor to ensure you’re on the right track – schedule a free 15-minute consultation to see how we can help!

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