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What Does The Heart Do?
Did you know that every day your heart beats around 115,000 times and pumps around 2,000 gallons of blood! The heart is about the size of your fist and is probably your most vital organ as it is responsible for pumping essential blood around the body. Every aspect of your body relies on the function of the heart to transport nutrients, oxygen & hormones, to name a few, to every single cell. The heart also takes away carbon dioxide and toxins that could otherwise do harm.
So, if your heart is not performing at its best for whatever reason, it could lead to serious issues all over your body, so it is vitally important that you maintain good heart health.
Symptoms Of A Healthy vs Unhealthy Heart
So how do you know if your heart is healthy or not? Here are some of the common signs of both a healthy and an unhealthy heart to compare. If you think you notice any of the symptoms of an unhealthy heart, then it is time to take action!
|Healthy Heart||Unhealthy Heart|
|Good resting heart rate (60-100bpm)||Aching in the shoulder or chest|
|Good blood pressure (less than 140/90 mm)||An irregular heartbeat|
|Good cholesterol levels (less than 200 mg/dL)||Sleeping problems and snoring|
|80% or higher in a stress test||Mouth problems including sore gums|
|Good blood glucose levels (100 mg/dL)||Puffy legs and feet from poor circulation|
|Feeling energised and active||Fatigue and shortness of breath|
|High max heart rate (70% to 85%)||Reduced sexual function|
|Fast recovery time||Feeling dizzy or lightheaded|
What Can Make The Heart Unhealthy?
There are many factors that can lead to your heart becoming unhealthy to different degrees and many of these are due to lifestyle elements which, thankfully, can be easily changed to help get you back on track. Here are some of the most common causes of heart problems in men and women:
- An unhealthy diet (high in fat, salt, sugar and cholesterol)
- Obesity and being overweight
- Lack of exercise
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol levels
- Excessive caffeine
- Certain medications
- Congenital heart defects (born with)
- Family history of heart problems
How Does Cholesterol Affect Heart Health?
Cholesterol is a lipid or a type of blood cell that is made within the liver. It works to produce hormones, insulate nerves and build new cells with the body. As a result, the natural levels of cholesterol within the body are beneficial. It is when we begin getting too much cholesterol from the foods we eat, such as meat, eggs and milk, that it can cause issues.
When there is too much cholesterol building up in the blood, it begins to narrow the walls of the arteries, leading to a process called atherosclerosis. This is a type of heart disease where the arteries become narrowed or blocked, meaning the blood can’t reach the heart properly. This results in chest pains and when it is completely blocked, it causes a heart attack. The type of ‘bad’ cholesterol that blocks the arteries is called low-density lipoprotein or LDL, and the ‘good’ which works to clear cholesterol build-ups is called high-density lipoprotein or HDL.
How Does Blood Pressure Affect The Heart?
Blood pressure is the measure of the force that your heart uses to pump blood around your body and measures how hard the blood is pushing against the walls of the arteries. You need some pressure in order for the blood to move around the body, but it is when it gets too high that it causes problems.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, can damage your arteries and affect the elasticity of the artery walls. This can lead to limited blood flow and makes your heart work harder than normal. Eventually thinning arteries and your heart overworking itself can lead to big problems including heart attacks, aneurysms and even a stroke.
How To Look After Your Heart
The best way to look after your heart is to live a healthy balanced lifestyle that can counteract the above causes of an unhealthy heart. Whilst you may not be able to change everything, such as congenital heart defects and taking certain medications, there are plenty of lifestyle aspects that you can change to look after your heart health on a daily basis. This includes:
- Having a healthy, balanced diet
- Reducing stress levels
- Getting plenty of regular exercise (20 minutes a day)
- Achieving and staying at a healthy weight and BMI
- Stopping smoking (or at least reducing)
- Reducing the amount of alcohol you drink
- Reducing the amount of caffeine you drink
- Not taking or abusing drugs
- Taking natural heart-health supplements
Foods For Heart Health
As your diet is one of the easiest aspects of your life that you can change to make a big difference to the health of your heart, it is important that you know what you should be eating! Here are some heart-friendly foods that can help to lower cholesterol levels, reduce blood pressure and protect the heart:
- Fatty fish with Omega 3 including salmon, tuna, cod, krill and trout
- Plant-based Omega 3 sources including flaxseeds, chia seeds and plant oils
- Berries including strawberries, raspberries and blueberries
- Nuts including almonds and walnuts
- Oats including porridge
- A small glass of red wine with resveratrol
- Dark chocolate ideally 70% or higher
- Soy including edamame beans and tofu
- Red, yellow and orange vegetables including carrots, peppers and tomatoes
- Cruciferous vegetables including broccoli, kale and Brussels sprouts
- Whole grains including barley, brown rice and corn
- Fruits including oranges, cantaloupes and papaya
As your heart is considered the most vital organ in your body, you should pay attention to it and keep it healthy at all costs. Whilst there may be some factors that you cannot control, most of the causes of an unhealthy heart are due to lifestyle choices so simply getting more exercise and eating healthier can make a big difference. Plus, there are plenty of heart health supplements available in all different shapes and forms that can help, so give one a try today!