The holidays have come and gone, and somehow it is already February, which happens to be American Heart Month – the perfect reminder to keep a vigilant focus on your cardiovascular health. Two major factors have a foundational impact on your heart health: nutrition and exercise. While most advice on how to keep a healthy heart has held up for decades, due to the endless barrage of information you may be subjected to in a given day, there may be some confusion about what works best in terms of how to keep the heart healthy. Join us as we dive into some frequent myths associated with cardiovascular health, and address a few key guidelines on optimal heart-healthy exercises and what food is good for your heart.
Debunking Cardiovascular Health Myths: What Food is Good For Your Heart?
Myth #1: How to Keep the Heart Healthy by Avoiding Fats
It’s easy to get confused about what food is good for your heart. One of the most popular cardiovascular health myths is that all fats are dangerous and should be entirely eliminated from your diet. You cannot completely avoid them, as fats are essential for the human body to properly function. Without enough fat, the body will not have enough energy to protect vital organs. However, it is important to consume healthy types of fats while trying to avoid unnatural, harmful fats.
Two categories of fats are saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats are the less healthy options, whereas unsaturated fats are extremely nourishing for the human body. Saturated fats include natural foods such as butter, most animal bi-products, and certain oils. If you do consume saturated fats, it is recommended that they only make up 5-6% of your daily calories.
Focus your daily fat calories on the more nutritional unsaturated fats instead, such as the currently popular avocados, nuts, seeds, fish, and some oils, such as olive oil. Even your Valentine Day dinner later this month can be celebrated in a healthy way by replacing more traditional options that are high in saturated fat with things like salmon, nuts, and sides of fruits and vegetables. It may not be quite as satisfying as eating your heart out on decadent dishes or desserts at the end of your Valentine Day dinner, but these healthier options are still quite tasty and equally as delightful. These healthy fats will keep you satiated and fuel your body with necessary energy throughout the day, giving you the momentum you need to stick to your daily fitness routine, the other essential element of maintaining optimal cardiovascular health.
Myth #2: Eliminating Carbs is the Answer to How to Keep a Healthy Heart
Just as there are frequent misconceptions about the role of fats in the human body, there are equally as many myths associated with carbohydrates. Carbohydrates, or “carbs, are the primary source of our energy and necessary for human survival. Just as it is critical to consume a certain amount of unsaturated fats to maintain a proper macronutrient profile within your diet, complex carbohydrates (the “good” type of carbs) play a necessary role in our day-to-day life.
Incorporating nutrient dense carbohydrates into your lifestyle plays a crucial part in how to keep the heart healthy. If you find yourself eating your heart out with over-processed carbohydrates such as white flour or white rice based products, replace those choices with fruits, vegetables, whole grain bread, or brown rice. If you’re unsure where to start, you can consult a dietician– at a health club.
Myth #3: Cholesterol Lowering Supplements Replace What Food is Good for Your Heart
While cholesterol reducing supplements such as fish oil, CoQ10, and Vitamin E are very popular and do indeed factor into how to keep the heart healthy, they should be seen as a tool, not a replacement for a healthy diet and exercise program. It is always best to incorporate what food is good for your heart into your health plan, as that will naturally lower your cholesterol. This includes nuts, garlic, olive oil, beans and legumes, sweet potatoes, and whole grain bread to name a few.
Debunking Cardiovascular Health Myths: How to Keep a Healthy Heart through the most Effective Physical Activities
As you can see, nutrition is an important component of how to keep the heart healthy. Knowing what food is good for your heart is half the battle. Likewise, it is also crucial to understand how to keep the heart healthy and increase the heart rate through physical activity. Similar to dietary myths, there are misconceptions associated with workout routines. Now that we have busted some of the common dietary fallacies pertaining to cardiovascular health, we will debunk prevalent exercise myths.
Myth #1: You Must Perform Moderate-Intensity Exercise for a Minimum of 45 Minutes
While it is true that engaging in any type of cardio consistently will benefit you, setting a goal of 45 minutes daily, while admirable, may be tough to maintain in the long run. If you find yourself wondering: “How much cardio per week is enough to maintain heart health?” The US Department of Health and Human Services recommends a weekly goal of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise.
Moderate-intensity exercise includes anything from brisk walking to working with a trainer at a fitness center. If 45 minutes seems unbearably long after a draining day of work, remember that it is better to move for even 10 minutes each day, rather than nothing. Start somewhere! Try to create a routine – even if it begins with 10 minutes, then slowly add a few more minutes each day – and commit to sticking with this plan regularly, regardless of how long you’re able to get out and move. Moderate-intensity exercise is critical for long-term health.
Myth #2: Aerobic Exercise is better for Increasing the Heart Rate than Anaerobic Exercise
Aerobic exercises are endurance based, as opposed to anaerobic exercises, which involve shorter, high-intensity bursts. For example, a steady jog for 30-40 minutes would be considered aerobic exercise, while 4 rounds of 100 meter sprints with 30 second rest periods would be classified as anaerobic. Rather than one form of cardio being a significantly superior option, both aerobic and anaerobic exercises positively impact how to keep the heart healthy. They both increase the heart rate, improve blood and oxygen flow through your body, mildly lower your cholesterol, and are equally beneficial for long-term cardiovascular health improvements.
Instead of trying to find the ‘perfect’ type of cardio, do what brings your body, mind, and soul joy! Not everyone was made to be a runner. You may find that walking, swimming, cycling, hiking, rowing, kayaking with manatees, or BMX biking is the type of cardio that you truly appreciate and will be more likely to commit to long term. Remember: heart health is a marathon, not a sprint. Longevity and consistency are key.
Myth #3: Resistance Training Will Not Help Increase the Heart Rate
Resistance training workouts – such as strength training at a weightlifting gym – function as an effective means of increasing the heart rate. It is also a fun way to add variety to your workouts if you tend to do more cardio and less weight lifting in your average gym session. Resistance training is categorized as anaerobic exercise and serves to promote the growth of lean muscle mass in the body, which helps reduce the risk of heart disease.
One example of resistance training includes working out with free weights. If you need ideas for easy starting points, try OAK Health Club’s popular dumbbells triceps workouts, dumbbells upright rows, dumbbells hamstring exercises, or free weights arm workout. Resistance training in a safe, controlled way can be a perfect addition to your routine – just make sure to incorporate a rest day or two.
Working out when sore can prevent your body from receiving the critical rest it needs for proper recovery. Mixing up your routine by focusing on your upper body one or two days per week and lower body one or two days per week, in addition to your moderate-intensity exercise several days per week, can allow for proper rest and recovery. A massage is another rejuvenating form of recovery and a blissful way to treat yourself between your workouts. (Here at OAK, we offer massage services to members and non-members alike!)
General Guidelines for How to Keep the Heart Healthy
Congratulations! With some of these popular myths dispelled once and for all, you can confidently take the first steps to improving your cardiovascular health. To recap, here’s a quick list of tips for your slow and steady, long-term heart health plan:
- Maintain a well-balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains, and lean meat. Ensure that the food you’re consuming not only tastes good, but is also truly nutritious. Make easy swaps for more vitamin and mineral rich alternatives when possible. For example, try replacing mayo on a sandwich with some creamy avocado instead! Consider replacing white bread with a whole grain. You can always consult a dietician to help get you started.
- Avoid smoking cigarettes, vapes, e-cigarettes, and any other tobacco products, which have been proven to cause strain to the human heart when used in excess.
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption, which has also been shown to negatively impact heart health when utilized over long periods of time.
- Move your body! Simply going out for a walk or stretching at home will get the blood flowing and help with increasing the heart rate.
- Set achievable goals: It is better to consistently work out for 15 minutes than try to meet a two-hour daily workout standard. Find a gym near you, where you can get into a consistent daily routine.
- Mix up your routine by focusing on your full body. Try weight training, cardio, outdoor activities, and even yoga or meditation to allow yourself multiple forms of movement.
- Find a fitness community: surround yourself with a like-minded group of others looking to improve their well-being. Cardiovascular group classes are a great way to get your body moving while offering that sense of community. If you join OAK Health Club in February, you will get a $75 credit toward any service (massage, coaching, cryotherapy, nutrition!)
- Try working with a coach! Think of them as your personal cardiovascular consultants. Whatever questions you may have about what types of exercises are most appropriate for you at your current fitness level, how to properly perform specific movements without accidentally injuring yourself, or any other gym-related concerns or hesitations can be answered by your coach. (Here at OAK, we pride ourselves on having coaches around the gym available to answer any member’s questions throughout the day. Don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our team members. We’re here to help you maximize your potential!)
- Practice self care. Stress can have a serious negative impact on the heart, both metaphorically and physically. Self love is actually quite healthy for the heart! Whether in the form of reading a book, meditating, yoga, or journaling, even if only for a few minutes per day, self care is a critical part of your heart healthy regimen. Pssst! Did you know that here at OAK Health Club, we’re offering a special on one of the best kinds of self care: massage! Purchase 3 massages for you or a loved one and get your fourth free! Massage services are available to all, no membership required.
Join a Health Club Today
If you are ready to learn how to start a workout routine, then OAK Health Club of Ashburn, Virginia is here to help. We offer personalized experiences through a combination of fitness, nutrition, recovery, and community. The result: you’ll feel healthy, capable, and empowered on your path to optimal health and wellness. Our Loudoun fitness club offers everything you need for success when you start a weight loss journey. Pick a membership offer or call us for more information at 1-571-462-6542. You’re always invited to schedule a tour and see what OAK Health Club has to offer!