• 5 Ways to Take Care of Your Heart Health

    by Dr. Payal Bhandari
    on Feb 16th, 2018

The heart is one of the most important organs in the human body. If you have a family history of heart disease and/or heart attacks, you have a greater risk of suffering from heart-related problems. Heart disease can reduce your lifespan and make life challenging. Even if you think that you are healthy, you can still make some changes to improve your heart health. Taking care of your heart today is the key to living a long, happy. and healthy life.


Stop Sitting and Start Exercising

Though you probably already know that you could benefit from some physical exercise, you may find yourself making excuse after excuse for why you don't get off the couch. No matter how many things you do in the average day, the amount of free time that you have or even how tired you feel, you can always find time to get in a little exercise.

Don't let another day go by where you spend the night sitting on your couch and binge watching your favorite TV show. Get up and do some basic stretches while watching an episode, or take a break between episodes for a walk around the block or for a run up and down the stairs. If you do your work sitting down all day, consider getting a standing desk or taking quick, 5 minute breaks every hour. Daily exercise can significantly improve the health of your heart and reduce your risks of developing serious health problems in the future. Those who are obese or overweight are more at risk of developing heart problems.


Become a Dental Hygiene Expert

Many people do not realize the connection between a healthy heart and a healthy mouth. Those who suffer from dental hygiene problems and dental conditions are more at risk of developing other serious health complications that can include heart disease. When you have one or more missing teeth in your mouth, you are susceptible to dry socket, which occurs when a blood clot forms on the gum. This blood clot can travel to other parts of your body and cause a stroke.

Poor dental hygiene also leaves you at risk for picking up bad bacteria while out and about. Good dental hygiene involves more than just brushing your teeth in the morning though. You need to brush three times a day, floss between meals and rinse with mouthwash. Make regular appointments with your dentist for a full check up every six months too.


Stop Smoking

After recovering from a heart attack, a patient will receive a series of instructions from the doctor on what to do and what not to do. Stop smoking is one of the top things on that list. Smoking is especially bad when combined with leading a sedentary lifestyle. Whether you spend long hours at a desk, on your couch or in any seated position, you have a greater chance of suffering from a blood clot. While some clots are harmless and cause little to no pain, frequent clots leave you at risk of suffering from a heart attack or a stroke.

Many cessation products can help you quit your bad habit. These products include gum, lozenges, and patches. Each one contains a set amount of nicotine and help you gradually wean yourself off nicotine. You can also join a support group or ask your loved ones to help you stay on track. If you smoke, be sure to speak to your primary care physician about ways to kick the habit.


Get More Sleep

Depending on who you work with and where you work, you might notice people bragging about how little sleep they get each night. Some people think it's a badge of honor to only sleep a few hours every night, but those people do not realize the damage they do to their bodies.

You generally want to get between six and nine hours or sleep. Sleeping less than three hours per night will slow down your body's reaction time and can leave you feeling like you're drunk. The less sleep that you get, the more pressure you put on your heart too. Your body uses sleep as a chance to recovery and recuperate from the challenges of the day.

If you have a hard time sleeping, keep waking after sleeping or suffer from insomnia, talk to your primary care physician. You may have a condition called sleep apnea that actually causes you to stop breathing, which forces your body to temporarily wake up in the middle of the night. Sleeping up to nine hours a night can help you feel better and healthier while also improving your heart health.


Change Your Diet

The problem with most diets today is that people feel guilty when they fall off the wagon. If you failed at dieting in the past, you likely found a diet that you thought would help, stuck to it for a few weeks, treated yourself to some bad foods and decided to just quit your diet. This is something that happens to many people, which is why you need to think about your diet as a lifestyle change. Rather than dieting, think in terms of weight management.

As you grow more accustomed to managing your weight, you'll find that you have an easier time sticking to nutritional options and with avoiding foods that are bad for you. Make simple changes like incorporating more green leafy greens and beans into your diet. For example, instead of eating a sandwich, have a hot chili with beans instead of meat.  Make your own salad dressing using a heart healthy olive oil, lemon, vinaigrette, salt, and pepper.  Packaged dressings are filled with preservatives, sugar, and bad fats.  Start replacing meat and dairy products with more legumes, quinoa, millet, and leafy greens.  You will feel satiated and light while not further damaging your heart.


Discuss Heart Health with Your Primary Care Physician

Changing your diet is just one way in which you can improve the health of your heart and reduce your risks of developing serious diseases and complications in the future. You'll also want to get more active and look for ways to exercise every day, including stretching on your breaks at work and parking in the back of the lot when you do your grocery shopping. Now is a good time to talk to your primary care physician, too. You can get tips on improving your health and learn how to take care of your heart health.

Book an appointment with Dr. Payal Bhandari at the Advanced Health clinic in San Francisco if you are interested in an integrative approach to your health care.


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Author Dr. Payal Bhandari Dr. Payal Bhandari M.D. is a leading practitioner of integrative and functional medicine in San Francisco.

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