Every second of the day, your heart is hard at work. Not only does it supply your body with needed oxygen and nutrients, but it also helps remove waste as it continuously circulates your blood. When you really think about it, that’s no easy job. But according to three important studies about heart health, you can do your part. Here are 3 simple ways to love your heart:
- Focus on nutrition over calorie counting
The more we learn about how our bodies process and utilize the foods we eat, the more experts have come to realize that the quality of the calories we eat may be more important than the quantity—and not just when it comes to maintaining a healthy body weight. A report published in the journal Open Heart found that focusing on the nutritional value of our food instead of strictly adhering to a low-calorie diet was more effective at promoting cardiovascular health. In it, experts recommended small but beneficial changes such as eliminating sugar, consuming more healthy fats and following a Mediterranean-style diet.
- Eat plenty of protein
Speaking of nutritional value, researchers from the University of East Anglia in England determined that consuming a diet rich in protein has a positive effect on heart health. In a study involving nearly 2,000 women, those who consumed high levels of key amino acids found in meat and some protein-rich plant foods were more likely to have lower blood pressure and reduced arterial stiffness. In fact, experts believe consuming more protein-rich foods may be as beneficial as quitting smoking or increased physical activity when it comes to reducing the risk of heart disease.
- Get more ZZZs
The next time you feel guilty about oversleeping, consider this: those extra ZZZs may have a positive effect on your heart. In a recent study published in the journal SLEEP, researchers analyzed the sleep patterns of more than 20,000 healthy men and women. According to their data, participants who got fewer than 7 hours of sleep nightly were 15% more likely to develop cardiovascular disease—and that number jumped to 63% if the sleep quality was considered poor. However, those who slept 9 hours or more each night saw no increased risk. “Long-term issues from sleep deprivation can be related to eventual heart complications that can be irreversible,” cautioned co-author Dr. Adil Karamali.