Ensuring You Have Good Cardiovascular Health

A set of hands creating the shape of a heart which create a shadow on the wall behind.
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In life, the most important thing you can have is your health. The best thing you can do for yourself is to ensure that you have good cardiovascular health. Essentially, you need to have a healthy heart. After all, your heart is what’s keeping you alive, so don’t you want to make sure it’s taken care of?

In this article, we want to share with you all you need to know to ensure that you remain in good cardiovascular health.

 

What is the cardiovascular system?

First things first, let’s get you familiar with the cardiovascular system. So, what is it?

The cardiovascular system can be regarded as a ‘transport system’ around the human body. The three main components of the system are your heart, your blood vessels, and the blood itself. Essentially, the heart is a pump, and the vessels are a delivery system carrying blood around your body.

The purpose of the system is to keep oxygenated blood and nutrients flowing through your body. This is what keeps you functioning normally and healthily. There are various diseases that can affect the cardiovascular system, and, if not properly treated, they can often be fatal due to their effects.

 

How can your cardiovascular system be compromised?

There are, unfortunately, many diseases and conditions that can affect your heart and cardiovascular system. The good news is, most of these conditions can be treated and lived with. If managed properly, most of these conditions will not decrease your quality of life detrimentally.

That being said, if you are to manage these conditions, it’s important you understand what some of the most common heart conditions are, and what happens when you have them. Some of the most common ones are as follows:

  • Coronary heart disease – is caused by the narrowing or blocking of the heart’s blood vessels. This means not enough blood is being supplied to the heart and can often lead to a heart attack or angina
  • Angina – this is pain or discomfort in your chest, arms, neck, stomach, or jaw, that is caused by the restricted blood supply to the heart. This is a symptom of coronary heart disease, not an illness in itself. When angina worsens, it can lead to unstable angina
  • Heart attack – happens when the blood supply to part of the heart muscle is totally blocked. This can cause damage to the part of your heart muscle that the supply was intended for.
  • Heart failure – happens when the heart stops pumping properly or effectively, meaning not enough oxygen is supplied. This leads to symptoms like fatigue and shortness of breath.
  • Arrhythmia – is the name for abnormal heart rhythms. If your heart’s electrical signals are interrupted, it can cause your heart to beat too fast, too slow, or in an irregular way.
  • Valve disease – when the heart’s valves can’t open and close properly to regulate blood flow the heart is put under more strain, resulting in symptoms like shortness of breath, swollen ankles, fatigue, chest pain, dizziness, or fainting
  • High blood pressure (hypertension) – although not a disease itself, high blood pressure can result in an increased risk of developing more severe heart problems
  • Congenital heart conditions – occurs when there is an abnormality or defect with the structure of the heart when it’s developing in the womb
  • Inherited heart conditions – inherited conditions that are passed through a family by genetics. These conditions can affect people of any age and can be life-threatening.

 

How to ensure good cardiovascular health

There are various ways you can ensure you’re taking good care of your cardiovascular health, including various tests and lifestyle adjustments.

Tests and monitoring

It’s a good idea to get a check-up on your heart if you suspect you might be experiencing problems. This is especially important if you have a history of heart problems in your family. There are many types of tests that can tell you how your heart is performing, and from there, you’ll be able to get a professional opinion on what you should do next.

It’s highly recommended that you consider an echocardiogram as this is one of the main tests that is used to assess the condition of your heart. This scan can see if your heart and valves are working correctly. It produces a moving image created by an ultrasound to highlight any damage that may be affecting heart function. Cardiologists use this information to diagnose you and create a treatment plan.

You may also consider an electrocardiogram to check how well your heart is beating, as this will be able to tell you if you’re suffering from arrhythmia. Having the doctor check your blood pressure with a blood pressure monitor, or investing in one of your own, will be able to tell you if your blood pressure is at a dangerous level.

Lifestyle adaptations

As well as any medical test and treatments, there are also changes you can make to your lifestyle in order to promote better heart health.

Firstly, adapting your diet can have a massive impact on your heart-health. What you eat can have a real impact on how healthy you are. In fact, alongside other lifestyle changes, a heart-healthy diet can reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke by 80%. So, what is considered a healthy diet for your heart?

The groups of foods you consume are important. For example, try to avoid consuming too much, or any, fried foods, processed foods, packaged meals, and sugary snacks. Instead, a heart-healthy diet will consist of “real” and natural foods (i.e., fresh foods from the ground, ocean, or farm).

How you cook your food is just as important as what you eat. Use heart-healthy cooking methods to prepare your food. For example, baking, broiling, roasting, steaming, poaching, lightly stir-frying, and sautéing ingredients are the best options. You should also only use a little oil (preferably olive oil), reduced-sodium broth, and spices instead of salt to cook and season your food.

Also, watch your portion sizes as carrying excess weight means your heart will have to work harder, which leads to high blood pressure – a major contributor to heart disease.

As well as watching your diet, you should try to exercise as much as you can. Exercise is particularly good for regulating and controlling your cholesterol levels. Most importantly, exercise can raise your HDL cholesterol levels (the good kind) and lower your LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). Exercise can also help you to lose excess fat from around your middle – something that is important for heart health. Lowered blood pressure and a lowered risk of developing diabetes, or controlling existing diabetes are also attributed to exercise.

All exercise is a good exercise if it gets your body moving and your blood pumping. However, you also need to be careful not to over-exert yourself in case it causes strain to your heart. So, consider these three main types of exercise for heart-health: aerobic exercise and resistance training (strength work).

Aerobic Exercise is good for improved circulation, resulting in lowered blood pressure and heart rate.  It also helps your cardiac output. Resistance training is useful for people who are carrying a lot of body fat, as increased body fat is a big risk of heart disease. Resistance training might also help raise your HDL cholesterol and lower your LDL cholesterol levels.

 

Overall, ensuring you have good cardiovascular health is a combination of factors. There’s no quick or easy fix for heart problems. However, as we can see, there are lots of ways to ensure you are taking good care of your cardiovascular health in the long term. Hopefully, you now feel like you have a good knowledge of heart health and will be able to take better care of your heart as a result.

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