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Your Heart Is a Muscle Exercise It

The heart is one of the most important muscles in your body. As a muscle, heart gets stronger and healthier with regular exercise. Commit to live an active life combined with exercise, balance diet, good quality sleep, and your heart will get healthier. According to WebMD, people who don’t exercise are twice as likely to get heart disease as those who do. Start slow and work out up to 30 minutes per day, five days per week. The exercise should be of moderate intensity – enough to get your heart rate up but not so intense that you couldn’t carry on a conversation. Here are a few benefits of daily exercise:

  • Exercise will help you to lose weight. The obesity is one of the major risk factor for heart disease. Staying slim will prolong your life!

  • Exercise will lower your blood pressure. Hypertension or high blood pressure is another major risk factor in the development of heart disease. One of three people doesn’t even know they have hypertension, and of those who do know, only 50% taking the medications have it under control.

  • Exercise will reduce your LDL (bad) cholesterol. The high cholesterol is another major risk factor for heart disease. Cholesterol deposits on the walls of the blood vessels including the coronary artery or blood vessels of the heart and may lead to the heart attack or strokes if clots break off.

  • Exercise will increase your HDL (good) Cholesterol. HDL cholesterol removes bad cholesterol from the blood and keep the walls of your blood vessels clean, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis.

So what kind of specific exercises will help strengthen my heart and generally improve the overall health?

Experts generally recommend a mix of aerobic and strength exercises, with stretching before and after to avoid injury. What are good aerobic exercises for the non-athlete? Cycling – this is a great exercise because you can elevate your heart rate easily, then drop it just as easily by coasting Swimming – another low impact exercise, swimming offers full body resistance to quickly get your heart working. You can also swim with your fingers apart to increase the workout.

Walking – here’s an exercise that doesn’t require any specialized equipment or planning. All you need is some time and a plan for where you want to go. Good exercises for building strength include:

Lifting weights – is great for building strength because of the repetitive nature of the movement and it impact on bone density.

Floor exercises – you don’t need to invest in weights for strength training. Begin doing small sets of exercises like squats, lunges and planks.

Yoga – some yoga is pretty intense, but stretching out your muscles before any workout is a good idea to prevent injury.

Wii Fit – the American College of Sports Medicine says that some of Wii Fit activities qualify as exercise. There are also stretching exercises that it will lead you through.

With a modest investment of two to three hours per week, you can make a big improvement in your heart health.

GOT STRESS

Fight Stress with These Simple Techniques

Stress has been called the silent killer. Prolonged exposure to even low levels of stress can cause real health issues, such as increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease. While stress is a reality of modern life, there are ways you can reduce its impact on your heart and body.

In order to manage stress, it is important to first understand how the body responds to it. If you are in the ocean and a large gray shape swims by, your brain screams “shark”. Your body reacts instantly by raising your blood pressure, increasing your heart rate and respiration, releasing adrenalin, raising your blood sugar levels, and much more. Done simultaneously, this will provide energy for the “fight or flight” response to the gray shape. While all of these actions will (hopefully) help you avoid being eaten, they take a toll on the body if the stress is chronic.

If your body constantly feels under attack it will constantly perform the actions above, which have serious health repercussions. High blood pressure and heart rate can narrow your arteries and elevate cholesterol, resulting in an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. High blood sugar can lead to type 2 diabetes, and elevated levels of adrenalin can impair memory and learning while increasing the risk of mental illness.

It would be nice to avoid stress altogether, but since that is rarely possible, we need to learn how to manage it. Fortunately, there are some simple techniques that are surprisingly effective, dramatically lowering your risk to the ailments discussed.

  • Exercise – this produces endorphins and also helps you sleep, which reduces stress.

  • Eat a healthy diet – stress can alter your eating habits.

  • Do something that is relaxing, like listening to music.

  • Meditate – this has proven to be effective for many stress sufferers.

  • Breathe slowly and count to ten – sounds silly but it can help.

  • And consult your doctor – long-term stress is a killer and must be carefully managed.

Fight your stress with these techniques and you will feel healthier, mentally sharper, and more energetic. The sharks won’t have a chance.

Manage Holiday Stress without Being a Grinch

So any day now, the weather outside will begin turning frightful. And all of us will respond by doing what comes naturally – stuffing ourselves and all of our worldly possessions into cars, buses, and planes. And oh yes, when we get to our destinations we will be cranky. If we are fortunate enough to not have to travel, that just means the crank-n-steins will be descending upon us, demanding food, drink, clean towels, and non-stop entertainment.

Sounds stressful to me. Talk about pressure!

But fear not – there are techniques you can use to mitigate the impact of holiday mayhem. Some are pretty straightforward, while others are a little more out there, but effective.

It has a cute acronym, but seasonal affective disorder can be a fairly serious issue, particularly at places like the North Pole. Who knew that sometimes in the winter, that nagging feeling of lethargy was just your body telling you it wants sun. Be sure to get outside, or stand near a window. It actually does help.

Take a walk: Experts tell us that walking decreases anxiety and improves sleep. And like a vitamin, take at least one (walk) each day.

You can say no: Even though everyone is having a jolly great time, you don’t have to be perpetual Santa. If it can’t be done, or if you don’t feel like doing something, say no. This is just looking out for yourself.

Laugh: Believe it or not, laughing reduces stress hormones, which helps your immune system. Stay healthy! The only thing worse than being stressed over the holidays is being sick and stressed.

Go spicy: Hot foods trigger the release of endorphins in the body. These are natural chemicals that trigger feelings of euphoria – currently available without a prescription.

Eat: Sounds weird that you could forget to eat with all that food around, but it happens, especially in the morning. Be sure to eat something early before the day cranks up (and no, coffee isn’t food.)

Music has two benefits: First, music can relax blood vessels and increase blood flow which aids relaxation. And second, if you turn it up loud enough you won’t hear the grandkids fighting.

Exercise can boost your mood for as long as 12 hours. And if you go to the gym in late December you will probably be the only one there!

Follow this advice, and by New Year’s Day you’ll be the jolliest old soul on the block!

Get Connected and Get Healthy

With the continuous growth in the number of fitness apps, it can be difficult to find one that actually meets your specific health and fitness needs, and gets results. Nearly 40 percent of smartphone owners use at least one fitness-based application and with hundreds of apps to choose from, where do you begin? Here are five top apps that cover key areas of fitness: diet, workouts, coaching, heart health and syncing to tie everything together.

1. MyFitnessPal: Getting in shape is as much about what you eat as what you do in the gym. Medical studies prove that the best way to lose weight and keep it off is to simply keep track of the foods you eat. Fad diets and pills don’t work, but writing down what you eat does. MyFitnessPal makes calorie counting and food tracking effortless with more than 5,000 foods in its extensive database. It also helps you monitor your food intake alongside your exercise stats. This app is quick, easy and free – www.myfitnesspal.com

2. Strave: Runners and cyclists alike love Strava. The biggest difference between Strava and other apps is its emphasis on competition, whether you’re competing against yourself or people who have beat you on a particular route. This app lets you track your rides and runs via iPhone, Android or dedicated GPS device and helps you analyze and quantify your performance. Key features? Strava estimates calories burned and records total miles traveled, elevation gain, total time, speed plotted over distance, average speed, max speed and heart rate if you wear a compatible heart rate monitor – www.strava.com

3. TrainingPeaks: If you’re an athlete or coach, then TrainingPeaks online and mobile training software is for you. With its simple interface and use of scientific tools and methods that have become industry standard, TrainingPeaks makes it easy to track, analyze and plan your workouts and endurance training. Top athletes around the world including Tour de France teams, Ironman World Champions, Olympians and age-group athletes and coaches all use Training Peaks. The iOS software is also compatible with more than 100 apps and devices – www.home.trainingpeaks.com

4. Garmin Connect: This is a terrific, free supplement to seamlessly connect all of your Garmin sports GPS devices, anytime, anywhere and share your activities as they happen. The Garmin Connect web service and smartphone app offers a competitive range of features for planning, tracking and reviewing your workouts, giving you more control over your training – www.connect.garmin.com/en-US

5. CardioSource: Cardiac disease is the number one cause of death in the US. The American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology developed a mobile and web-based app for health care professionals to use with patients to start a conversation about heart health. The app is useful in determining 10-year and lifetime risks for developing atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), the major cause of heart attack and ischemic stroke. It also includes readily accessible guideline reference information for both providers and patients related to therapy, monitoring, and lifestyle. Download the free ASCVD Risk Estimator from the iTunes and Google Play app stores. The Web version is available at www.cardiosource.org or www.myamericanheart.org

Depressurize – Manage Your Lifestyle and Manage Your Hypertension

It is estimated that 70 million American adults (one in three) have high blood pressure, known medically as hypertension. It is equally alarming that according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than half of sufferers do not have it under control. This is terrible news for public health, because hypertensive people are at dramatically increased risk of death from a stroke (four times) and heart disease (three times). According to the CDC, hypertension is public health enemy number two (behind tobacco). However, hypertension can be managed and often “cured” by managing your lifestyle.

What to do first: Because there are often no initial symptoms, millions of people do not even know they have hypertension. So the first step is to be sure to get your blood pressure checked at several different times. The condition is also hereditary, so be sure to tell your doctor about your family history.

lose weight: The most important factor in managing hypertension is weight – the obese (defined as those having a body mass index exceeding 30) are up to six times more likely to be hypertensive. To eliminate this elevated risk, it is generally acknowledged that you should shed sufficient pounds to become within 15% of your healthy body weight.

Avoid Heavy Alcohol Use: Drinking too much alcohol increases blood pressure and can lead to other heart problems. Moderate alcohol intake, however, is not associated with high blood pressure. This is defined as two drinks or fewer per day for men and one drink or fewer per day for women.

If You Smoke, Quit: Smoking can increase the amount of fatty material (known as plaque) that collects in your arteries and may contribute to elevated blood pressure readings. There are many different options today to assist those who want to quit smoking.

Improve your diet: A diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol is usually also rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. All of these will help lower blood pressure, with the added benefit of reducing cholesterol levels and body weight.

Reducing sodium intake Is also part of a healthy diet. It is estimated that because of the attractiveness of prepared and fast food in modern life, Americans consume 10-15 times more sodium than needed. Read labels – even some over the counter medicines and supposedly “low calorie” restaurant meals can contain large amounts of salt. Reducing your salt intake will lower your blood pressure.

Exercise Regularly: Make exercise a regular part of your day, and be aware that this doesn’t have to be a multi-hour time commitment. Strive for at least 30 minutes of aerobic activity per day. This will also help you manage stress.

Manage Stress: Although stress does not cause hypertension, hormones released by your body when you are under stress can increase your blood pressure. Take time out for relaxing activities.

When to Contact Your Doctor: Some cases of hypertension need to be managed with lifestyle changes and medication. Contact your doctor if you have any questions about these recommendations and/or medication that might help you treat your hypertension.

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