5 Ways To Turn On Your Heart
There are more ways to turn on your heart than by falling in love or opening a heart-shaped box of candy (though chocolate can be heart-healthy).
Here are five ways to give your heart a boost -- physically and emotionally -- any time of year.
How does exercise benefit your heart? According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, it can lower your blood pressure and help raise “good” cholesterol levels. In fact, research has shown that doing 2.5 hours of light exercise each week might even halt developing heart disease.
Don’t have time for a long workout? Working out harder instead of longer could reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease as well. This has been found to be especially true for sedentary men, who are at a greater risk of cardiovascular disease and heart failure. (That said, though, intense exercise isn't for everyone. It's best to consult a physican before starting any new exercise program.)
2. Eat Heart-Healthy Foods
Experts agree that the Mediterranean diet is one of the best diets for keeping your ticker ticking. These four foods have also been shown to directly benefit the heart:
- Beans. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that adults who consumed at least one serving of pinto beans every day for 12 weeks had significant reductions in cholesterol.
- Avocados. Avocados are packed with carotenoids -- antioxidants that protect you from cancer and heart disease.
- Walnuts. Walnuts are the only nuts that contain high amounts of omega-3 essential fatty acids, which promote heart health and help lower blood pressure. Eating even a few walnuts per day has been found to have health benefits.
- Salmon. Filled with omega-3 fatty acids, salmon benefits the hearts of both healthy people and those who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association.
3. Develop Good Relationships
Research has shown that marriage, friendship and other positive relationships create good health outcomes and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Though humanity has been trying to figure out the key to good relationships since practically the beginning of time, experts suggest vulnerability is one place to start. "Getting to know your own vulnerabilities -- and being able to share them with others -- is how you form meaningful relationships,” says Amy Przeworski, Ph.D., a psychology professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. Most of all, be aware that if you’re in a bad relationship, it’s not doing your heart any favors.
4. Appreciate Yourself
There are a number of reasons why we may not appreciate ourselves. According to Mike Robbins, author of Be Yourself: Everyone Else Is Already Taken, self-appreciation wasn't modeled for most of us growing up, so we don't have practice or experience with it. Also, we often worry that appreciating ourselves is selfish or arrogant. But being good to yourself is actually one of the basic happiness building blocks. "Self-appreciation is the foundation for not only self-care and self-esteem, but also for our ability to appreciate and love others," says Robbins.
Though you may initially fight against it, Robbins suggests trying a few self-appreciation tricks. Start saying a simple "thank you" when someone gives you a compliment, instead of deflecting it. Talk about yourself kindly, instead of being the self-deprecating tough guy. Write yourself a letter of appreciation, give it to a friend or family member, and have them mail it to you in a year. Take time for yourself, even if it feels selfish at first (e.g, take a hot bath, do some yoga, head to a nearby court and join a pick-up basketball game).
5. Spend Time With Happy People
According to a study published in the British Medical Journal, happiness has a habit of spreading. Meaning: If your friend’s friend is happy, then your friend is happy. And if your friend is happy, then you’re happy! People who are surrounded by clusters of happy people tend to be happier in general, and being happy has been shown to boost heart health.