Simple tips to treat your heart right

Simple tips to treat your heart right

Did you know your heart weighs about 10 ounces? That’s the same as two and a half sticks of butter.

It’s not much, but what a powerhouse! It pumps an average of five to seven liters of blood each minute through close to 100,000 miles of blood vessels to other organs and the rest of your body.

Your heart beats roughly 100,000 times each day, or more than 36 million times in a year. Ready for this? That would be 2.88 billion times if you live to be 80. Talk about efficiency!

As a cardiovascular intensive care unit nurse at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital in Barrington, Ill., I have some tips to lighten your heart’s load.

For starters, let’s take a look at sodium. Sodium isn’t a bad thing. After all, it makes our food taste good, right? But too much sodium can raise your blood pressure, make you retain water and add an unnecessary strain on your heart.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends limiting sodium intake to less than 2,300 milligrams a day, which is about a teaspoon of salt. Ideally, you shouldn’t consume more than 1,500 milligrams a day. How much do most Americans consume? More than 3,000 milligrams per day. That’s definitely a red flag!

Instead of using salt on your food, try a squeeze of fresh lemon or a sprinkle of fresh herbs. Finely chopped onion, ginger or garlic are tasty, too.

Now let’s move on to sugar. It’s widely known that diabetes and cardiovascular disease are closely related. Limiting sugar in your diet could reduce your risk for Type 2 diabetes. So the next time you’re shopping for groceries, look for foods with the AHA label indicating the item is certified to meet criteria for heart-healthy food. On the label, you’ll see a heart with a big check mark on it. Look for that.

And while you’re watching what you eat, don’t forget about the importance of physical activity. One study reported that people who exercise regularly live about seven years longer than people who are not active and are obese. Aim for at least 150 minutes of exercise per week. That number might sound like a lot, but over the course of seven days, that’s not even 22 minutes per day.

Exercise can improve your mood, decrease anxiety – and it’s terrific for your heart. Remember, your heart is a muscular organ. It loves when you exercise.

Finally, no matter what you do, do not smoke, and avoid second-hand smoke.

Having a healthy heart is all about making healthy choices. Even small changes in the right direction can improve your heart health.

Amy Wlodek, RN, BSN, is an Advocate Nurse. She works in the cardiovascular intensive care unit at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital. Advocate Health Care recently named Wlodek a recipient of The Advocate Nurse Award.   

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Amy Wlodek
Amy Wlodek

Amy Wlodek, RN, BSN, is an Advocate Nurse. She works in the cardiovascular intensive care unit at Advocate Good Shepherd Hospital. Advocate Health Care recently named Wlodek a recipient of The Advocate Nurse Award.