Memorial Regional Health Living Well: Move your body toward better heart health
- At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150 minutes.
- At least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic activity.
- Moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits
- Eating a healthy diet. Focus on foods low in sodium, added sugar, and saturated fats and trans fats.
- Maintaining a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of heart disease.
- Regular Exercise. Physical activity helps maintain a healthy weight and lowers cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Not smoking. Cigarette smoking has a great impact on the risk for heart disease and stroke.
- Limiting Alcohol Use. Drinking too much alcohol can cause high blood pressure.
If cardiovascular exercise isn’t a part of your routine already, starting out with just 10 minutes of walking a few days per week could send your heart on a path toward better health.
The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity, aerobic activity at least five days per week. Those strapped for time can increase the intensity for less time and fewer sessions per week by doing 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least three days a week.
“Any type of physical activity can be helpful, but aerobic exercise is the most beneficial for heart health,” said Ericka Lucas, director of Rehabilitation Services at Memorial Regional Health Rehab Center. “Good examples of aerobic exercise that you can perform are walking, jogging, biking and swimming.”
Cardiovascular disease refers to several conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels, also known as the circulatory system, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Common cardiovascular diseases and conditions include heart disease, stroke, hypertension or high blood pressure. Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in the United States, according to the CDC.
About half of all Americans have at least one of the three key risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking, according to the CDC. Making smart lifestyle choices can minimize or eliminate these risks.
The most common ways to neglect overall heart health are by smoking, being overweight or obese, having a poor diet and living a sedentary lifestyle, Lucas said.
Anyone with concerns about high intensity exercises can look to low-impact cardiovascular exercise, such as walking, biking and swimming, Lucas said. But, it’s important to get cleared by a physician prior to beginning an exercise routine to make sure it is safe, she said.
“Don’t worry if you can’t do continuous exercise for 30 minutes at a time, it is still beneficial to start out with whatever you can do, even if it’s just 10 minutes to start,” Lucas said.
The American Heart Association actually defines physical activity as anything that makes you move your body and burn calories. The aerobic exercises mentioned above are especially beneficial, but so are climbing stairs and playing sports.
“The simplest, positive change you can make to effectively improve your heart health is to start walking. It’s enjoyable, free, easy, social and great exercise,” according to heart.org, the American Heart Association’s website. “A walking program is flexible and boasts high success rates because people can stick with it. It’s easy for walking to become a regular and satisfying part of life.”
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