Why Put Your Heart Under Strain?

November 4, 2011

This is a guest post by Jessica Ainsworth.

Whilst our hearts have to work incredibly hard on our behalf to keep us not only healthy but to keep us alive, a huge number of us start to take this major organ for granted. We feel as though our hearts will continue to do what they have to do no matter what we put into our bodies, and often it is only when the heart eventually buckles under the strain that the lucky ones who survive this cardiac breakdown realize that it isn’t that simple.

The vast majority of us put unnecessary strain on our hearts, often without realizing that we are doing it. Some of the things that we are guilty of, which can result in the heart having to work far harder, include:

  • Smoking
  • Excessive drinking
  • Poor diet
  • Little exercise
  • Excessive stress levels

Improving your lifestyle to make life easier for your heart

The good news is that even if we have spent years living an unhealthy lifestyle that has put additional strain on the heart, it is never too late to make amends! There are a number of ways in which we can improve our lifestyles to help reduce the strain on the heart and some of these include:

  • Quit smoking – attend cessation classes if you are finding it difficult to give up alone
  • Reduce your drinking, avoid binge drinking, and stay within the recommended safety levels when it comes to alcohol
  • Improve the diet by switching high sugar, high fat foods for healthier alternatives
  • Step up the exercise, particularly cardiovascular activity for the health of your heart
  • Find time to relax and let off some steam so that you don’t become increasingly stressed

Consider how your diet affects your heart

One of the major changes that you can make in order to improve the health of your heart is in terms of your diet. We live in an age of fast and processed foods and most of us are guilty of shovelling far more of this type of food into our mouths than we should! Over time, a diet that is rich in foods packed with fat, calories, salt and sugar can really take its toll on the heart, which is why it is important to evaluate your diet and make changes.

There are certain foods and even drinks that you might be consuming on a regular basis that could be having an adverse effect on your heart and health. This includes:

  • Sugary food and drink, such as fizzy drinks, candy, donuts, cakes and biscuits
  • Food that is deep fried, such as French fries, fried fish, etc.
  • Some margarines and shortening, which contain hydrogenated fat
  • White bread, white pasta and other similar white foods
  • Food that contains a lot of salt

You won’t need to give up these foods completely of course, as there is nothing wrong with indulging in your favourite treats and foods once in a while – in fact, that is probably advisable as otherwise you could end up having cravings and bingeing, which is never good! However, when it comes to your staple diet you should try and avoid these foods on a regular basis and instead opt for alternatives such as:

  • Wholegrain and whole wheat variations of foods, including bread, rice, pasta and cereals
  • Naturally sweet drinks such as freshly squeezed fruit juice as well as plenty of water
  • Food that contains natural sweetness to placate that sweet tooth such as fresh fruit
  • Low fat and sunflower spreads that are not hydrogenated
  • Low salt and sodium foods
  • Food that is cooked healthily using methods such as baking, steaming or grilling

Shop smart to help your heart!

With the huge choice of healthy options that are available today you should have no problem finding the foods and ingredients that you need to live a healthier life in terms of your diet. You will find many low fat, low calorie versions of your favourite foods, which means that you won’t have to worry about living off just salad and water in order to reduce fat, calories and salt!

When you go shopping take a little extra time to check the nutritional value of the foods that you are considering before you purchase them. Many food products will now list the nutritional value so you can see at a glance whether the product is going to be suited to your healthier diet.

Also, try and motivate yourself to buy more fresh food, such as fruit and vegetables, so that you can create your own meals made from fresh ingredients rather than going for pre-made meals. This way you have far more control over what goes into your meals and you get the added benefit of more vitamins and minerals than you would get with food that has been processed to within an inch of its life!

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