Health & Fitness

Get Pumped: Tips for a Healthy Heart

There’s a strong argument to be made that the heart is the most important organ in the body. Without it, not much else would function. Consequently, maintaining heart health should be a top priority in life. This should be the case even at a young age, as lifestyle and other health-related choices made early on in life can have detrimental consequences down the road. So, have you thought about your heart recently? No, not who you’d give it to – how to keep it healthy. Well, if you haven’t, now is the time to start thinking about it, with the help of expert tips on how to become a champion for your heart.

Let’s begin by exploring whether body mass has anything to do with a healthy heart. The New York Times cites a rather large study in the European Heart Journal examining this exact relationship. Around 300,000 men and women of ages 40 to 69 participated in this ambitious undertaking, which followed the subjects for 5 years on average. The researchers found that a body mass index (BMI) lower than 18.5 was associated with a greater risk of heart disease. (According to the National Institutes of Health, BMI is “a measure of body fat based on height and weight that applies to adult men and women.” Here’s a link to a calculator you can use to find out what your BMI is.) Interestingly, this association was nonexistent among nonsmokers. A BMI between 22 and 23 correlated with the lowest risk of heart disease, whereas BMI values above 23 were shown to have a direct relationship with this risk. Lastly, a similar finding associated percent body fat mass with chances of heart disease.

What’s the main takeaway from all of this? As the lead author of the research put it, “If you’re healthy, you can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease by being as slim as possible within the normal range of B.M.I.”

At the same time, it is important to recognize the shortcomings of the BMI, which can tell you that you’re overweight when you really aren’t. Take, for example, Connor McDavid, the 2016-17 National Hockey League MVP. Here’s a video of him skating at speeds up to 25 miles an hour. Pretty fit guy, wouldn’t you say? BMI doesn’t think so. In fact, according to this index, he is slightly overweight! In the end, athletes and muscular folks in general should take the BMI with a grain of salt, as should older folks and those experiencing muscular loss.

Whether the BMI works for you or not, there are many effective things you can do to make sure that your heart is healthy. A recent report from Harvard Health Publishing notes that decades of mostly sedentary behavior is detrimental to the heart muscle. However, recovery of heart health is possible through an array of aerobic exercises.

What you eat, as you might expect, also plays a role in how healthy your heart will be. For example, consumption of asparagus is related to a better heart.

Finally (and quite unfortunately), a spoiler alert: a healthy lifestyle does not guarantee a life free of heart trouble. “Bad” genes inherited from the previous generation could make one more vulnerable to heart disease.

All in all, however well you may have taken care of your heart up to this point, there are ways to make your heart even healthier. It’s not too late to take it to the next level which, as you might expect, takes heart itself.

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