Stress, an unbalanced diet or not enough exercise: there are many causes of heart disease. However, it is never too late to change your own lifestyle. We will show you how.
There are of course some things over which you don’t have any influence yourself, including your age, gender and family medical history, but other than that, it is up to you to keep your heart in good shape and in doing so prevent cardiovascular complaints. You just have to start somewhere:
Even if you exercise just a little bit more as part of your daily routine, this will already have a positive effect on the health of your heart, because exercise helps to keep your blood pressure within a healthy range. Physical activity reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease. The first thing Wendy Stranges from the Swiss Heart Foundation advises people to do is to get more exercise, for example by getting off two or three bus stops before your destination and walking the rest of the way. “It doesn’t have to be a marathon,” says Stranges. “Even small changes to your daily routine have a big impact”.
Emotions have an impact on our health too. Fear or anger aren’t just experienced in the mind; they also have a quantifiable impact on the heart. The heart beats faster, the body is under stress. A big hug or a deep kiss can act like medicine in this case.
Joy or a deep kiss can also trigger stress, but this is positive stress that makes us happy. Our circulation kicks into gear and our pulse rises – thereby providing our organs with oxygen more effectively.
Diet also plays a role in heart health. Although you should have a balanced diet, the new regime shouldn’t be a nuisance. Everyone needs to find out what suits them best: perhaps you would prefer to eat less than the recommended amount of fish but snack on more nuts instead and use rapeseed oil or olive oil for cooking. These foods also contain valuable fats. “You only stick at something in the long term if you also get some joy out of the change,” says Wendy Stranges.
Put our tips to the test – but don’t get annoyed if you don’t enjoy them all. Anger only causes stress which in turn can strain the heart.
Smoking is the biggest risk factor for a heart attack. As early as one year after stopping to consume nicotine, the risk of getting cardiovascular disease drops by 50%. This also applies to former chain smokers. 15 years after smoking the last cigarette, the risk drops to that of non-smokers.
Fatty and industrially processed foods are not beneficial. Instead, you should eat more Mediterranean foods – and heed the following tips.
Eat five daily palm-sized portions of raw and cooked fruit and vegetables – and in different colours. This will give you the necessary amount of vitamins, minerals and dietary fibres. Plan to have two meat-free days per week.
Eat products containing cereals every day. You should give preference to wholemeal products, e.g. wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta and unsweetened cereals, or potatoes.
Eat a small handful of unsalted nuts, seeds and kernels every day. Among other things, they contain valuable fats and dietary fibres.
Use one to two tablespoons of vegetable oils every day, at least half of which should be rapeseed oil. Use olive oil for both cold and hot dishes. Our local rapeseed oil is also perfectly suited to preparing cold food.
Meat doesn’t have to be served every day. If you eat meat, opt for low-fat (i.e. lean) cuts.
Salmon and other fatty fish help to protect the heart. For that reason, you should consume a fish dish once to twice a week. Choose fish from sustainable fishing grounds (organic certification for farmed fish and the MSC certification mark for wild fish).
Drink 1.5 litres a day of unsweetened beverages like tap water, mineral water, herbal tea or fruit tea. Drinking a glass of red wine with a meal is fine. The polyphenols contained therein have a protective effect on the vessels. However, don’t drink alcohol every day to prevent addiction.
By engaging in sport, we can strengthen circulation and prevent cardiovascular disease. Furthermore, the body reduces stress hormones when we exercise.
Get at least 30 minutes a day of moderate-intensity exercise or 2.5 hours a week of medium-intensity exercise to get your breathing and heart rate up. Ideally, you should incorporate as much movement as possible into your daily routine. Walk as often as possible and avoid long periods of sitting down; do yoga while watching TV. Just one brisk walk a day strengthens the heart muscle, and housework also stimulates circulation: 30 minutes of cleaning is about as strenuous as 30 minutes of fast walking. Gardening uses as much energy as cycling. Which activities or sports do you enjoy? Compare the calories each type of exercise burns to get yourself motivated:
Regular endurance training makes the heart more effective. Hiking, swimming and cycling are good choices even for beginners. In terms of pace, you should still be able to chat while performing the activity. Fancy getting into jogging? What you should bear in mind:
During weight training or strength training, both the body’s oxygen consumption and muscle circulation increase. The training also activates the metabolism. This has a beneficial effect on blood sugar levels.
With dancing, T’ai Chi, yoga or gymnastics, you train balance, mobility and muscle strength at the same time. Such forms of training, which involve honing various skills, are advisable.
Walking in the forest does you good. Studies have shown that spending time in the forest helps to reduce high blood pressure and stress.
A bit of a hectic pace or an adrenaline rush from time to time won’t make you get heart disease. Chronic stress, on the other hand, is harmful. The body needs relaxation.
Seven to nine hours of sleep per night are advisable for adults. A lack of sleep contributes to high blood pressure, which in turn is one of the most important risk factors for heart disease.
Reduce stress by clarifying any unspoken issues in relationships. Although this initially takes courage, it keeps you healthy. Anger or grudges, on the other hand, can put strain on the heart. The act of forgiveness can have a positive effect on the entire body, and in particular on heart health. The risk of a heart attack is reduced. Cholesterol levels sink. How can you forgive someone? These four steps can help.
Ensure you have a healthy work-life balance. Cardiovascular disease can be associated with mental stress. Friends and family can help you to relax and unwind.
Meditation or breathing exercises help to reduce stress. Try out different methods. However, you can also relax by listening to/playing music or exercising. Pay attention to what does you good.
What is the real meaning of life? Ask yourself if you are satisfied with your current life situation. Ideologies, belief and feelings of deep appreciation have a decisive effect on our health.
Make time for your relationship and your group of friends. Go out. Go on an excursion. Try out new things. Maybe a dance class or a climbing course? If you’re single, get your best friend on board. Shared experiences strengthen any relationship – and are good for your heart.
Kissing makes our hearts beat faster. This strengthens the cardiovascular system. The pulse rises and blood vessels dilate – the organs are supplied with blood more effectively. Regular intense kissing can reduce high blood pressure.
Consciously put your mobile phone or tablet to one side, for example after work. Leave it at home at the weekend sometimes – and don’t read any work e-mails while on holiday.
Jovana Stojanovic (pharmacist, MSc pharm. sc. ETH) works as a health consultation advisor at Helsana. She is committed to providing health advice to our customers. Jovana Stojanovic provided the editorial team with advice and input for this article.
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