3 simple swaps for better heart health

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Busy people can find it difficult to take heart-healthy steps. These simple exchanges can help.

Busy days make it hard to put heart health first. It’s like you don’t have time for habits that keep the ticker in top shape, like exercising regularly, getting enough sleep, and eating a healthy diet. So maybe you take the stairs when you can, or park farther from a store to rack up a few extra steps each day. But what else can you do? Here are three things that might fit into your schedule.

Replace electronic communication with an in-person meeting

It’s fine if texting, emailing, social media, or Zoom calls are your primary means of communicating with others. But it’s not okay if these methods leave you feeling lonely or isolated — two issues linked to higher risks of heart disease, heart attack or stroke, according to a scientific statement from the American Heart Association. in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

To combat loneliness and isolation, try replacing some of your email exchanges with people with face-to-face meetings. Maybe you can find room in your schedule for a quick walk, a cup of coffee, or a quick lunch with a friend or colleague.

“Face-to-face time helps you connect with others and can make you feel less isolated,” says Matthew Lee, sociologist and research associate at Harvard University’s Human Flourishing Program. “Being physically co-present can help you feel more engaged with others, more valued, and more likely to feel a sense of shared identity — all of which can help alleviate loneliness. That’s why some doctors are starting to engaging in ‘social prescribing’, including suggesting that people engage in volunteering and other activities that build in-person social relationships.”

A recent study published in the International Journal of Public Health by Lee and a Harvard-led team of researchers suggest that better social connection may reduce the risk of being diagnosed with depression or anxiety. Both are associated with heart disease or make existing heart problems worse.

Replace an unhealthy breakfast with a healthier one

Is your typical breakfast fast and full of refined (not whole) grains, processed meats, saturated fats, or added sugars? Eating these kinds of foods on a regular basis can raise calories, weight, blood sugar, or cholesterol – and it’s not good for your heart.

Instead, choose foods high in fiber for breakfast, a type of carbohydrate that passes through the body undigested (insoluble fiber) or dissolves into a gel (soluble fiber) that coats the gut.

Fiber not only aids in digestion, but it

  • traps, cleans and lowers the bad [LDL] cholesterol which can lead to clogged arteries
  • controls blood sugar and reduces the risk of diabetes, which is strongly associated with heart attacks and strokes
  • can help fight chronic inflammation, which plays a role in clogging arteries and causing heart attacks.

Fruits, nuts, seeds, whole grains (oats, barley, quinoa) and many other foods are high in fiber. Try these fiber-rich breakfast ideas:

  • microwave oats (heat 1/2 cup rolled oats with almost a cup low fat milk for about two minutes)
  • a serving of cooked quinoa (cold, if you have it in your fridge) with a dollop of fat-free Greek yogurt, berries and granola
  • whole grains with milk (choose cereals with the highest amounts of whole grains and the lowest amounts of added sugars)
  • a slice of whole-grain toast with two tablespoons of nut butter (such as almond or peanut butter)
  • a handful or two of homemade trail mix (use your favorite nuts, sunflower seeds, and unsalted dried fruits like raisins or apricots).

Trade a few minutes of scrolling time for meditation time

If you ever take a break from your busy day to browse the news on your phone or computer, chances are you can also find some time to meditate, which is important for heart health. Research indicates that people who meditate have lower rates of high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, and coronary heart disease compared to people who don’t meditate.

What is the link ? Meditation triggers the body’s relaxation response, a well-studied physiological change that appears to help reduce blood pressure, heart rate, respiratory rate, oxygen consumption, adrenaline levels, and cortisol levels. stress hormone.

The good news: It doesn’t take long to reap the benefits of heart-healthy meditation: about 10 to 20 minutes a day.

Ideas for meditating quickly during a busy day include sitting quietly, closing your eyes, and

  • focusing on your breathing, without judging the sounds you hear or the thoughts that come to mind
  • listen to a guided meditation, which uses mental images to help you relax
  • listen to a recording of soothing sounds such as waves, a bubbling brook or gentle rain.

Just try to calm your brain for a few minutes a day. Soon you may find that you have become better at meditation and practicing other heart-healthy habits, no matter how busy you are.

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