Having a healthy heart cannot be overemphasized. Heart-related diseases are one of the top causes of death. There are certain heart conditions that are preventable while others are manageable. For preventable heart conditions, you can prevent them by avoiding certain habits and lifestyle choices. This can be achieved by proper planning and intentionally following through with healthy choices.

You need to plan to have a healthy heart and develop habits that will maintain your heart on a long-term basis. To build a long-term plan for a healthy heart, we have put together a list of things you can practice on a long-term basis to have and maintain a healthy heart.

Improve your eating habitIt’s no news that the food we consume affects organs and our body generally – negatively or positively. The heart is one of such organs that can be affected by unhealthy food and poor feeding habit. Ways to improve eating habit include:

Reduce your salt consumption. Excessive intake of salt increases your chances of getting blood pressure – this means that you are at risk of suffering from heart disease or stroke. Experts advise that the maximum daily intake of salt should be 6g for adults and 3g for children. It is best to avoid using any salt at all at the table and reduce the amount you use in cooking. Asides from the salt you put in your food, ensure to check food labels to know how much salt you are eating in processed foods. Avoid processed food with more than 1.5g salt.

Consume less sugar. Excess sugar in your diet eventually leads to weight gain, which can raise your blood pressure and lead to other diseases that affect the heart.

Reduce your consumption of saturated fat food items that are too oily. Avoid them as much as you can. Consuming excess saturated fat is believed to increase cholesterol levels. Saturated fat can be found in butter, ghee, margarine, fatty meats, dairy fats, and processed foods such as pies, pastries, and cakes. You can try healthy options such as semi-skimmed milk and low-fat dairy foods instead of full-fat ones, choose lean cuts of meats and steam or grill instead of frying.

Increase your intake of potassium and other healthy food items. Find creative ways to add potassium to your diet. You can do this by eating a good amount of fruit and veggies daily. Studies show that potassium helps to lower your blood pressure. Vitamins, minerals, and fiber which can be found in fruits and veggies can help keep your heart healthy. Some fruits and veggies are rich in soluble fiber which also helps to lower cholesterol, including citrus fruits, sweet potato, aubergine, mango, and most beans and pulses.

Another healthy thing to look out for is Omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids help the heart by helping to reduce the cholesterol level of the heart. Omega-3 fatty acids can be found in food items such as pilchards, sardines, mackerel, salmon, and fresh tuna. For vegetarians, omega-3 fats can be gotten from spinach, wheat germ, walnuts, flaxseed and flaxseed oil, soy and canola oil, and pumpkin seeds.

Make better lifestyle choices 

Lifestyle choices affect our bodies and ultimately, the organs in our bodies. Below is a list of lifestyle choices that can affect your heart in the long run.

Smoking – quit smoking. Smoking damages the lining of your arteries and reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood. This raises blood pressure and stresses the heart. Smoking is a major cause of cardiovascular diseases. Smokers have twice as many chances of having a heart attack compared to those who do not smoke.

Alcohol – Reduce your alcohol intake. Excessive intake of alcohol can affect the heart by causing high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, and damage the muscles of the heart. If you can, completely avoid it. If not, drink moderately in line with the current guidelines. The moderate alcohol drinking guideline is two to three units a day for women and three to four for men.

Exercise – exercise more and keep your weight down. Studies show that being inactive increases the chances of having a heart attack. Active people are less likely to have a heart attack compared to those who are inactive. You should aim to have at least a 30-minute walk daily. You do not need to do this all at once. If you have a very busy schedule, just ensure that you walk around enough to make up to a minimum of 30 minutes in a day. Keep track of your activities and where you do not meet up during the week, you can take time out on the weekends to make up for the times you missed.

Exercise also helps with your weight. If your BMI is more than it should be in the long run, you are at risk of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes is above normal. Get more exercise and do all you need to do to keep your weight in check.

Mindfulness – it is good for you to learn how to keep calm and manage the stress that comes with day-to-day living. Stress increases the chances of practicing bad habits and addictions all of which can cause heart problems in the long run. Thus, if you are stressed, find a way to practice mindfulness and how to stay calm. Staying calm in stressful situations is a skill that must be learned. Stress can lead to psychological and physical conditions. It helps the heart when you are not stressed.

Poor sleeping habits and poor quality of sleep can lead to high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. To improve the quality of your sleep, you can try to sleep at the same time daily and for the same amount of time.

Periodic medical checks – make is a part of your plan to have a full-body check annually or bi-annually depending on your budget. This can help to detect and condition early.