According to a 2018 report published by the World Health Organization, heart disease is one of the leading causes of male deaths in the world. Since the heart is a muscle, it requires proper care to ensure it doesn’t fail. Below are simple practices for a happy and healthy heart.

Strive to regulate your stress levels: High stress levels largely lead to the production of the stress hormone – cortisol. Although cortisol is useful as a counter measure to dangerous and high-pressure situations, if one consistently feels pressured, it can be detrimental. This is because long-term exposure to high cortisol levels can disrupt almost all of your body’s processes. The heart is the most affected as cortisol narrows the arteries thus increasing blood pressure. Consequently, there is an increased chance of vessel damage and plaque buildup in your arteries. These conditions set the stage for a heart attack or stroke.

In situations like this, it is recommended that you find a stress relieving avenue. There are various options to choose from. Since each man is tailored differently, find something that interests you. For some it could be exercise, spending time with family or even engaging in a hobby or a relaxing activity. These activities are important as they largely contribute to the reduction of cortisol levels. You can also develop positive relationships with others including family, friends and co-workers.

Exercise regularly:There is a plethora of benefits that come with regular exercise. Being fit keeps the arteries flexible and open and this reduces chances of blockage and ensures that your blood pressure remains steady. Doctors recommend at least 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercises each week. Common cardio exercises are brisk walking, running, cycling and swimming. In the gym, cardio machines include treadmill, elliptical trainer, stationary cycles and stepping machine.

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Confront your emotions: Mental issues such as depression or anxiety that mess with your emotions could lead to a heart attack. The best way to deal with such issues is facing your emotions head on. This can be done by seeing a trained professional such as a psychologist or speaking to a trusted friend. Their expertise allows them to determine the way forward. In extreme cases, drugs such as anti-depressants are prescribed.

Eat healthy: One’s diet plays a huge role towards heart health. It is recommended that you reduce your sodium intake, stay hydrated, increase fibre intake and avoid trans-fats by shunning packaged foods that contain the word “hydrogenated” in the ingredient list, as this ingredient puts you at higher risk for a heart attack or stroke. Also, eat breakfast as it will give your body the energy it needs to function throughout the day. Research has also shown those who eat breakfast are more likely to be within their ideal weight range compared to those who regularly skip breakfast.

Get enough sleep: When it comes to sleep, balance is key as research has shown that too much or too little sleep can have a significant effect on your heart health. Getting less than six hours of sleep puts your body under stress, thus increasing your risk of stroke or heart attack. For optimum heart health, get the recommended eight hours per night.

Go for regular medical checkups: Although the practices above are crucial, they will not be as effective without regular health checkups. Even in the absence of symptoms, many physicians recommend routine, yearly doctor visits and physicals for males of all ages. Your doctor is most likely to check the following: blood pressure, cholesterol level, prostate function, overweight or obesity, eye checkup and dental examination.

This article was first published in the January 2020 issue of Parents.

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