(BPT) - If the new year inspires you to reassess your health and wellness routine, this is the perfect time to focus on the core of your well-being: heart health. You can take positive steps today to benefit your overall wellness by using tips recommended by a cardiologist.
“Your heart is the center of your life,” said interventional cardiologist and nutritionist Dr. Heather Shenkman, “so it’s crucial to maintain your heart health to ensure that every part of your body gets the nutrients and oxygen needed for optimal function and energy.”
Here are the top ways to create an effective heart-healthy routine.
1. Go for a walk
Walking — or other physical activity — is recommended to help improve your blood pressure and maintain a healthy weight, among other benefits cited by Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
How much should you walk? The American Heart Association recommends adults get either 2 1/2 hours of moderate exercise spread over one week, or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity throughout each week. While walking may be easy to start with as it requires no equipment and you can control your pace and distance, you can also try cycling, swimming or dancing. Consult your doctor before starting any new exercise.
2. Quit tobacco
If you smoke (including e-cigarettes and vaping), now is a good time to quit. The American Heart Association reports inhaled nicotine delivery product use is the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., including approximately one-third of the deaths from heart disease.
3. Get your zz’s
Not sleeping enough won’t just make you tired, but can also impact your heart health. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), your blood pressure goes down during normal sleep, so sleeping less means your blood pressure is staying higher longer, which can raise your risk for heart disease. How much sleep is enough? While the amount needed varies by individual, the CDC recommends aiming for 7 hours per night.
4. Reduce sodium — and increase potassium
According to Harvard Health, one way to lower cardiovascular disease risk is by reducing salty foods in your diet while increasing potassium-rich foods. Too much salt can elevate blood pressure, potentially leading to heart disease, while more potassium can help decrease blood pressure. Fruits and vegetables containing potassium include bananas, oranges, spinach and broccoli.
5. Boost fiber intake
The Mayo Clinic reports that fiber from beans, oats and flaxseed may help lower your LDL cholesterol levels, while providing other benefits like reducing blood pressure and helping you maintain a healthier weight. How much fiber do you need? The Institute of Medicine recommends women aim for 25 grams of fiber per day, while men should get 38 grams. Currently, Americans only get on average 15 grams of fiber each day.
"Getting enough fiber means upping the amount of beans and lentils you eat, as well as oats and other whole grains, plus fresh vegetables and fruits," said Dr. David Kahana, who is triple-board certified in gastroenterology, pediatrics and medical nutrition. "Daily fiber is crucial for your digestive health as well as your heart health."
6. Discover the benefits of nitric oxide — and beetroot
While you've probably heard about fiber, you may not be familiar with nitric oxide — an important neurotransmitter that supports many processes in the body and plays a key role in heart health, including supporting arterial wall and platelet function.
"Nitric oxide helps support healthy blood pressure levels and aids in maintaining normal blood glucose levels and metabolic health," said Dr. Shenkman. "Since nitric oxide synthesis slows as you age, it's important to maintain healthy nitric oxide levels."
To support nitric oxide production, Shenkman recommends eating a variety of fruits and vegetables, garlic, leafy greens, pomegranate, nuts and seeds — and beetroot makes the top of her list. Beetroot powder has been gaining attention as an effective way to boost nitric oxide production, which is why Shenkman worked with 1MD Nutrition to help create CardioFitMD®, the ultimate vegan, all-in-one daily nutrition drink packed with superfoods including highly concentrated, potent beetroot powder — plus essential fiber, probiotics and 20 key vitamins and minerals.
"I always tell patients about the importance of a balanced diet and physical fitness, but we all know that's easier said than done," adds Shenkman. "That's why I helped formulate CardioFitMD, the ultimate daily superfood beverage for complete heart, circulatory, metabolism, digestive and multivitamin support. CardioFitMD is a great-tasting, nutrient-rich drink to help you maintain a healthy, active lifestyle."
7. Maintain a healthy weight
If you're following any of these tips, you’re already taking positive steps toward reaching and maintaining a healthy weight. Moving every day, while increasing the fresh fruits and veggies, beans and legumes you eat can help you better manage your weight, which in turn supports your heart health. The National Institutes of Health reports that losing 3-5% of your weight can improve your blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
Learn how CardioFitMD can help support your energy levels and stamina, and promote proper heart and digestive function while helping you maintain a healthy weight, at 1md.org/product/cardiofitmd.