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5 Heart-Healthy Habits To Show Your Heart Some Love

In light of February being the month of love, Affinity Health, a leading provider of high-quality health coverage, provides five heart-healthy habits to show your heart some love.

The human heart is a remarkable organ that pumps oxygen-rich blood throughout the body, delivering vital nutrients and oxygen to all cells and organs. This life-sustaining role makes the heart one of the most critical organs in the human body.

“Our hearts work tirelessly to keep us alive, so showing them some love in return is crucial,” says Murray Hewlett, CEO of Affinity Health.

“Poor heart health can cause cardiovascular diseases, including heart disease, hypertension, and stroke, which are among the leading causes of death worldwide. Fortunately, adopting heart-healthy habits can significantly improve your cardiovascular well-being.”

1. Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet

What you eat is vital in maintaining healthy blood vessels, controlling cholesterol levels, and managing blood pressure.


Here are some dietary guidelines to promote heart health:

Embrace a Mediterranean Diet: Did you know the Mediterranean diet is renowned for its heart benefits? This diet emphasises whole grains, fruits, vegetables, seeds, nuts, and olive oil over red meat and processed foods.

Reduce Sodium Intake: Excessive sodium can cause your blood pressure to spike, increasing the risk of heart disease. Limit your consumption of high-sodium foods like processed meats, canned soups, and fast food. Instead, flavour your meals with herbs and spices.

Choose Heart-Healthy Fats: Unsaturated fats help lower bad cholesterol levels and reduce inflammation in the arteries. Great sources of unsaturated fats include avos, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish (e.g., sardines).

Include Fibre-Rich Foods: Fibre helps maintain healthy cholesterol levels and aids digestion. Add whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables to your meals to increase your fibre intake.

Control Portion Sizes: To avoid weight gain and an increased risk of heart disease, restrict your portion sizes. Pay attention to hunger and fullness cues.

2. Prioritise Regular Exercise

Staying active helps strengthen your heart muscle, lower blood pressure, and improve circulation. Exercise also contributes to weight management and reduces stress, both of which help improve heart health.


Here’s how to incorporate exercise into your routine:

Aim for 150 Minutes of Moderate Exercise: The American Heart Association suggests 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise per week. These recommendations may be met by brisk walking, cycling, swimming, and dancing.

Include Strength Training: Weightlifting and bodyweight workouts assist in developing muscle and enhancing metabolism. Aim to do at least two days of strength training per week.

Stay Consistent: Consistency is essential for getting the advantages of exercise. Find activities you like to help you stay on a regular schedule.

Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s signals, and don’t push yourself too quickly. Go slowly to new exercise routines, increasing the intensity and length of your exercises over time.


3. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Excess body weight, particularly around the abdomen, is a significant cause of high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes. Consider the following tips for managing your weight:

Set Realistic Goals: Instead of trying to shed a large amount of weight in a short period or stick to a strict eating plan, focus on making small, gradual changes in your diet and exercise routine. Small changes add up over time and are easier to sustain.

Eat Mindfully: Practice mindful eating by savouring each bite, chewing slowly, and avoiding distractions like smartphones or television during meals.

Stay Active: Regular physical activity burns calories and helps keep your heart muscles in top form.

4. Manage Anxiety and Stress Effectively

When you are anxious or stressed, your body creates hormones like cortisol, which may contribute to high blood pressure and vascular inflammation. Managing anxiety and stress in your daily life is crucial for cardiovascular health.


Here’s how to reduce stress:

Practice Relaxation Techniques: Deep breathing, meditation, and gradual muscle relaxation are all techniques that help you relax and de-stress.

Stay Connected: Maintain a solid network of friends and loved ones. Sharing your emotions and experiences might help you feel better and less stressed.

Prioritise Self-Care: Make time for self-care. Simple activities like reading a book, taking a bath, or walking are self-care forms.

Get Enough Sleep: Ensure you get at least seven to nine hours of sound sleep every night, as poor sleep may raise stress and harm heart health.

5. Quit Smoking and Limit Alcohol

Smoking and excessive alcohol intake are significant risk factors for heart disease. Smoking destroys blood vessels, lowers oxygen levels in the blood, and raises the risk of atherosclerosis, while alcohol use may cause high blood pressure, irregular heartbeats, and cardiomyopathy.

Here’s how to address these habits:

Quit Smoking: Seek support from healthcare professionals, support groups, or smoking cessation programs to quit smoking. It may take multiple attempts, but persistence pays off.

Limit Alcohol Intake: If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation. The American Heart Association recommends no more than one drink per day for women and two for men.

Seek Help if Needed: If you struggle with smoking or alcohol addiction, reach out to healthcare professionals or support organisations for assistance in quitting or moderating your habits.

About Affinity Health

Affinity Health is South Africa’s leading health coverage provider, offering you a range of options at affordable rates, including access to the widest national provider network. We understand the importance of having medical insurance that meets your needs, budget, and lifestyle. Our healthcare products are designed to protect you and your family when it matters the most. We strive to give our clients peace of mind and the highest standard of service. For more information, follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram.

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