Quick Tricks to Help You Improve Your Heart Health

15 Minute Quick Challenges to Boost Heart Health

Your heart has a big job to do. Over the course of your life, it will help move millions of gallons of blood all through your body. The pumping of your heart allows oxygen, hormones and nutrients to flow through the body. The heart's pumping also helps remove waste.

Since your heart plays such an important role in keeping your body healthy and functioning, it's important that you do as much as you can to keep your heart healthy. When it comes to your heart health, a few small changes and tricks can help make a big difference.

Learn Your Numbers

A few measurements can give you an idea of how your heart is doing and what changes you can make to improve its health. A visit to your family doctor can help you discover:

● Your blood pressure

● Your cholesterol levels

● Your blood sugar levels

● Your body mass index (BMI)

Knowing the above numbers can help you and your doctor determine how much of a risk you have for heart issues such as peripheral artery disease, stroke, or heart attack. Knowing your numbers also gives you an idea of your overall health. If any of your numbers are higher than the recommended levels, your doctor can give you advice on what to do to bring them down, such as exercising more or making changes to your diet.

Find Time for 15 Minutes of Exercise

If going to a 45-minute exercise class or following an hour-long workout video on YouTube seems like too much, there are other options. When it comes to exercise, it helps to think small and simple. The less effort required to get you moving, the more likely you are to stick to a routine.

Take a quick 15-minute walk around your neighborhood after you've had your breakfast, for example. Take a second quick walk after dinner or lunch. Make a 15-minute playlist with your favorite upbeat songs, cue the playlist up and start dancing around your living room or kitchen. If you live with family or friends, get them to take a walk or dance around with you.

Clean up Your Sleep Habits

How much sleep you get and the quality of your sleep have an effect on your heart. Getting fewer than seven hours of sleep each night can increase your risk of high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes1, both of which can affect your heart health.

If you have trouble getting the recommended seven or so hours of sleep each night, a few small changes can help to improve your sleep hygiene, making it easier for you to fall and stay asleep. First, try going to bed at the same time and getting up at the same time every day. Setting up a schedule helps to trick your body into falling asleep at the right time.

Make your bedroom a place that's conducive to sleep. Keep it cool and dark and try not to bring electronics, such as your phone, laptop, or even a TV, into it. Make the room a zone dedicated to rest and relaxation.

Limit activities that wake you up or energize you in the hours before bed. While being active during the day can help you sleep better at night, exercising a few hours before bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep. Also try to avoid looking at screens a few hours before bed, as the blue light can make you feel more alert.

Practice Deep Breathing or Meditation

Lowering your stress levels can also help your heart. Starting a meditation practice or deep breathing practice is one way to bring some calm to your day and ease your stress. Meditating can be easier than you think. Find a quiet spot at home, such as a corner in your bedroom or living room. Sit on a pillow or cushion with your back straight and your legs crossed or in a lotus pose. You can also sit on a chair with a straight back if that's more comfortable.

Close your eyes or look at a spot just on the horizon with a soft focus. Breathe in through your nose, then out through the nose, using your core muscles to move the air in and out. Your shoulders and chest should stay still as you breathe. What you focus on during the meditation is up to you. You can focus on breathing, counting your breaths in and out. Or you can think about people you love.

Start small when meditating. If sitting for 15 minutes seems like too much, try five or 10 minutes. You can always increase the length of your session as you hone your meditation skills.

A few small changes can make a big difference when it comes to your heart health. If you aren't sure where to start, your family doctor can give you direction and guidance. Talk to them about your numbers and see where you can go from there.

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1. How Does Sleep Affect Your Heart Health?, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/bloodpressure/sleep.htm

2. Know Your Numbers?, Go Red for Women, https://www.goredforwomen.org/en/know-your-risk/know-your-numbers

3. Heart Health, Harvard Health Publishing, health.harvard.edu/topics/heart-health

4. Meditation to Boost Health and Well-Being, American Heart Association, https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/mental-health-and-wellbeing/meditation-to-boost-health-and-wellbeing?

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