Good habits help you to spend a healthy life. But it is not always clear what actions pave the way to a healthy heart.
Monitoring indicators such as heart rate, heartbeat, pulse and blood pressure can be confusing.
Dr. Jonathan Mock, interventional cardiologist at AdventHealth-Central Texas in Killeen, explained that taking care of your heart doesn’t have to be difficult and that it starts with a healthy diet.
“A heart-healthy diet is one that consists of eating more fruits, vegetables and meats such as poultry and fish,” he said. “Saturated fats and sugar should be limited as well as sugar-sweetened beverages.”
While a balanced diet is essential, it is necessary to understand the difference and the connection between pulse and blood pressure.
“Blood pressure indicates the amount of pressure that the vessels are seeing as your body pumps blood to your organs,” Mock said. “The pulse is the number of times that the heart pumps blood in a given minute. Though the two are related, they are very different.”
Because the pulse rate is equal to the heartbeat, measuring it also equals the heart rate.
According to information from the American Heart Association, a rising heart rate does not cause your blood pressure to increase at the same rate. Although your heart is beating more times a minute, healthy blood vessels dilate to allow more blood to flow through more easily.
While many focus on counting steps with a Fitbit or Apple watch, Mock said that those measures are not necessary. Counting steps is a useful tool for people to tell how active they are, but not an indicator of a healthy heart.
It can be more beneficial to monitor your heart rate during your workout.
“A person’s heart rate during exercise can signal how healthy the heart is,” Mock said. “A well-conditioned heart does less work for a given amount of exercise, and thus, the heart rate will not go as high. Tracking your heart rate can give you insight into how intense your workout is.”
The American Heart Association recommends determining your resting heart rate first. This is the number of times your heart beats per minute when you’re are not physically active. A good time to check it is in the morning before drinking the first cup of coffee or any caffeinated beverages.
Most people have a resting heart rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
Studies have found that a higher resting heart rate is linked with lower physical fitness and higher blood pressure and body weight. Therefore, the lower the number, the better.
The maximum heart rate is usually determined by your age.
The American Heart Association states that your target heart rate during moderate-intensity activities is about 50-70% of your maximum heart rate. It’s 70-85% of the maximum heart rate during vigorous physical exercise.
Since individual health conditions can have a negative effect on heart health, it is recommended to check with your doctor first before going all out during workouts.
“High blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol levels, diabetes, obesity and tobacco abuse are the major risk factors for cardiac disease,” Mock said. “If you have any of these factors, you want to make sure they are followed by a physician or eliminated in order to decrease your chance of having heart disease.”
Especially cholesterol plays a significant role when it comes to your overall health. The fat-like substance is found in all cells of the body and is needed to make hormones, vitamin D and materials that help you digest foods.
While your body usually makes all the cholesterol it needs, it is also found in foods from animal sources, such as egg yolks, meat and cheese.
Contrary to common belief, science suggests that dietary cholesterol has only a modest effect on the amount of cholesterol in the bloodstream.
While you don’t have to stay away from eggs, meat and cheese, scientists do recommend a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grain.
This limits the intake of saturated fat and highly refined carbs, which can damage the cardiovascular system. Eating foods high in fiber can help reduce your cholesterol level by making unhealthy dietary fats harder to absorb from the gut.