It can break when you lose a loved one. It can swell when your baby is born. It can flutter during your first kiss.
The heart is one of the most important muscles in your body and keeping it healthy is essential.
Even though February (American Heart Month) is several months away, we hope to raise awareness about cardiovascular disease and educate ourselves on what we can do to live heart-healthy lives – especially during this pandemic.
More men and women die of heart disease each year than all forms of cancer combined, according to the American Heart Association (heart.org).
However, this biggest killer is preventable, and one of the best ways to keep it at bay is with exercise.
“If you exercise regularly, there are many levels, physical and emotional, that improve,” says Metra Lundy, an American Heart Association spokeswoman and workout expert. “Strengthening your heart improves circulation, weight control, cholesterol levels, prevents bone loss, boosts energy, releases tension, improves self- image if you do lose weight, reduces risk of heart disease and stroke, and the list goes on and on.”
Not just any exercise will suffice, however.
Aerobics — such as walking, swimming, biking, step classes, interval classes or dance classes like Zumba or Jazzercise — are ideal heart-healthy workouts since they get your ticker pumping.
“Aerobic [exercise] tends to increase the heart rate, while weight lifting increases blood pressure without increasing the heart rate,” said Dr. Louis Tichholz, chief of cardiology at Hackensack University Medical Center.
Keeping track of your heart rate while you exercise is essential. Measure your heart rate by pressing gently on one side of the neck with your index and middle finger until you feel your pulse. Count each beat you feel to determine your heart rate.
Your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age. Tichholz recommends starting your workout at about 50 percent of your maximum and building up to 75 percent.
Five days a week
Heart-healthy workouts should be done on average 30 minutes a day, five days a week, said Tichholz. If you can’t commit yourself to 30 minutes all at once, break up your workout into three 10- minute intervals a day.
Or build up to walking 10,000 steps a day, which is equivalent to five to six miles.
A sedentary person walks at least 1,000 steps a day, but Tichholz suggests that increasing your steps by 500 each day — by walking more at work or just taking the stairs instead of the elevator — can help. To keep track of your steps, purchase a pedometer, available at any sporting goods store and other major retailers.
“The concept is, even if you don’t have time to do a formal exercise, you can do things like walking,” he says. “I watch people when I go to shopping malls waste 10 minutes trying to get parking spots closest to the store, when it is better to park farther away and walk. Walking can be an adjunct or very good form of exercise.”
Lundy says for every one hour you exercise, you gain two hours of longevity or life expectancy. “That’s an awesome trade-off,” she said.
Coronary disease can be prevented. The American Heart Association and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Disease Prevention and Health offer the following tips to keep your ticker strong:
* Watch your weight.
* Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke.
* Control your cholesterol and blood pressure.
* If you drink alcohol, drink only in moderation.
* Get active and eat healthy.
* Talk to your doctor about taking aspirin every day if you are a man over the age of 45 or a woman over 55.
* Manage stress.