Dads live busy lives. With work, family, and social responsibilities, it is sometimes difficult to schedule the time to take care of yourself. You know you should pay attention to your heart health, and to your credit, you really do try. But taking care of others always ends up being your main priority.
The good news is that having a healthy heart is possible by incorporating a few simple habits into your lifestyle. If you commit to making the following 10 small changes, you’ll not only have a healthier heart, but you will also have feel better and have more energy to take care of your family.
Get Regular Exercise
Exercise helps build muscle, burns fat, keeps your joints flexible, and builds bone density. It also strengthens your heart, making it tougher and more resilient. You should try to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (brisk walking is perfect) at least 5 days per week. Use a monitor to track your heart rate while exercising to make sure you don’t overdo it. The following table from the American Heart Association shows estimated target heart rates for different ages. Your maximum heart rate is about 220 minus your age. Heart rate during moderately intense activities is about 50-69% of your maximum heart rate, whereas heart rate during hard physical activity is about 70% to less than 90% of the maximum heart rate. If your heart rate is too high, you’re straining. Slow down. If it’s too low, and the intensity feels light, you may want to push yourself to exercise a little harder. It’s also important to know your resting heart rate. The average resting heart rate for men is 60 – 100 beats per minute.
Manage Your Weight
Being overweight greatly increases your risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol—both of which can adversely affect your heart health. It also sets you on the road to type 2 diabetes. Losing just 10 percent of your body weight can greatly reduce your risk of heart disease.
Stress is hard on the heart and can wreak havoc on your heart health. Schedule time to relax each day by doing things you enjoy. You can also try these 7 stress reduction techniques:
- Breathe Deeply – Breathing deeply not only feels good, but it also helps rid the body of toxins. Bring your shoulders up to your ears and inhale. Drop your shoulders when you exhale. Breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth. This ensures you take in the deepest breath possible for the maximum benefit. Finish by rolling your neck from side to side.
- Smile – Smiling helps to release endorphins, natural pain killers and serotonin. You’ll be surprised at how great a simple smile can make you feel.
- Eat slowly – Eat slowly and remember to chew food thoroughly. Take the time to enjoy sensory experience of your food.
- Listen to music – Music is the ultimate mood changer. Listening to your favorite song is a great way to melt away stress. Feel free to get up and dance. It’s great exercise.
- Get a Massage – Ask your partner to gently rub your shoulders or back to release tension. Seek a professional massage therapist for a more therapeutic message.
- Get a mini-facial – Microwave a bowl of water, take a hand towel and soak it in the water. Wring out the towel and place it on your face, neck, or wherever your body feels most tense or tight.
- Meditate – Regular meditation will not only help you to relax and reduce stress, but it will also give you the following short-term benefits: lower blood pressure, improved blood circulation, and lower heart rate. Mediation isn’t always easy because your mind has a tendency to wander and get distracted. However, by following these simple mediation techniques, you will start to reap the benefits in no time: 1. Sit or lie comfortably in a quiet room. 2. Close your eyes and breathe naturally. 3. Focus your attention on the breath and on how the body moves with each inhalation and exhalation. If your mind wanders, simply return your focus back to your breath. Meditate for 2–3 minutes to start, and then try it for longer periods.
Get Adequate Sleep
According to a new study by the National Sleep Foundation, adults between ages of 26-64 should get 6-10 hours of sleep every night with 7-9 hours being optimal. To get a good night’s sleep, go to bed and get up at the same time every day (even on weekends); sleep in a cool, dark room; avoid caffeine after 7 p.m.; and ban all electronics from the bedroom. Too much mental stimulation can keep you awake. If you’re having trouble sleeping, wear a sleep-tracking device to help identify sleep problems.
Cigarettes are terrible for your heart (not to mention your lungs and the rest of your body). If you haven’t already stopped smoking, do it now. Your doctor can help you to figure out the best way to give up cigarettes (patches, gum, therapy, etc).
Your best bet for a healthy heart is to eat a nutritious, balanced diet. Start with an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruit. Choose whole grain breads, pastas, cereals, and brown rice. For protein select beans and legumes, eggs, and nuts. If you must have meat, stick to lean cuts of beef, chicken, and fish. Turn down sugary deserts, snacks, and beverages except as rare treats on special occasions, and watch your portion size. When shopping for grocery check the labels for sodium content, sugar, fat and calories.
Get Regular Checkups
Keeping a sharp eye on your blood pressure, cholesterol level, and blood sugar will help you nip any impending heart-health problems in the bud. Schedule a regular health exam with your doctor once a year or more if you have health issues or are over 50.
Downsize Your Alcohol Consumption
While drinking a glass of wine may be good for your heart, too much alcohol can be detrimental to your health. Limit yourself to no more than two drinks a day.