Prioritising your physical health through good lifestyle choices can help you to feel well, look your best, and reduce the odds of heart attack, stroke, and other symptoms of cardiovascular disease (CVD). It may also help to improve your mental wellness and mood, as some of the habit changes associated with improved heart health are also linked to psychological well-being.
It’s a great time to take a closer look at the steps that can be taken to improve our cardiovascular health, as September 29th marks World Heart Day. The annual awareness day, created by the World Heart Federation, is all about helping raise awareness of CVD, which is the world’s leading cause of death and is estimated by the CDC to be preventable in approximately 80% of cases.
Lifestyle changes ideal for both your mental and physical health include:
- Staying active. When it comes to your heart health, exercises that get the muscle pumping – aka, cardiovascular exercise – is one of the best preventative measures. Like all muscles, it’s at its strongest when it is used regularly. Regular physical activity is also important to your mental state, and has been linked by numerous studies to the reduction of depression and anxiety.
- Cutting back on stress. Though it’s impossible to cut out stress entirely, taking measures of self-care when things are feeling tense can positively impact your heart health. This is because the release of cortisol, a hormone which causes heart disease, impacts weight gain, and raises blood pressure, is triggered by stress. Healthy ways of coping with stress include talking things out, meditating, using breathing exercises, and relying on learned coping skills – all of these are also tools which can be used to diffuse feelings of anxiety.
- Getting enough sleep: Striving for eight hours of sleep is ideal, but many of us fall short of this on the regular. This impacts not only general cognitive function, but the risk of heart disease and stroke as caused by elevated blood pressure. Healthy sleep is also crucial to your psychological well-being, with lack of sleep increasing the likelihood of poor mental health.
In honour of World Heart Day, We The Parents have launched the #ArtForHearts campaign, pairing the illustrations of talented artist Nadia Jasmin Ochoa with important, kid-friendly, shareable facts that can help children understand the importance of establishing heart-healthy habits – take a look.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the founder of Psychreg. He tweets @dennisr_howell.
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