There is a direct correlation between your fitness levels, overall health and heart health. Some of the main factors of poor heart health are being overweight, inactivity and diet; not paying attention to these factors can lead to disease. Thankfully, regular exercise can affect change.
Your weight, BMI and overall physique are indicators for your current and future heart health. Being overweight and/or if you exhibit fat around your middle, could be factors which increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. This is because fat cells produce toxicity harmful to your body that end up in your bloodstream. You can also be an ideal weight but still exhibit fatty areas – regular exercise that focuses around fat burning and toning will help to shift problematic areas that collect fat and keep you healthy. A balanced diet with a reduction in processed foods, sugar and complex carbohydrates, which are all contributors to fat build up, and a routine of aerobic, weight and resistance training can help tackle these concerns and keep you in tip top shape.
Not only do processed, sugar and complex carbohydrate foods increase fat build up in tissue, but as foods high in saturated fats, which also includes butter, pies and pasties, sausages and fatty cuts of meat and cream, they contribute to higher cholesterol. It is high cholesterol that clogs up the arteries which can lead to heart attacks, disease and stroke. Unsaturated fats such as avocado, nuts, seeds and oily fish are healthier fats that can actually help reduce and tackle high cholesterol. In terms of exercise, frequent activity helps to lower bad cholesterol by increasing good cholesterol which will push fatty deposits out of the arties. Aerobic exercise is the key here to shifting and altering your cholesterol levels.
Exercises to promote a healthy heart
Overall aerobic exercise is best for improving heart health. Aerobic exercise entails movement that involves the large muscle groups, as this requires pumping greater quantities of oxygen around the body which ultimately makes the heart and lungs work harder.
Aerobic exercise includes:
You should aim to do 150 minutes/2 ½ hours of aerobic based exercise per week to stay healthy. In addition, muscle strengthening activity such as Pilates, swimming and weights for at least 60 minutes per week will help to shift problematic fatty deposits that affect your overall health.
Monitoring your progress
The best way to monitor your progress is with regular heart rate, blood pressure, weight and cholesterol checks.
If you’re 40+ it is encouraged you get an annual health check with a nurse practitioner at your local GP surgery. If you’re under 40 you can still request an appointment but you can also visit pharmacies who routinely offer free consultations and reviews.
Monitoring your heart rate is also ideal to see your improvement in heart health and fitness.
At the start of your programme, it is ideal to make a note of your resting heart rate, what it is during exercise and how long it takes to get back to normal once finished and use these measurements as your bench mark.
A normal, resting heart rate will be between 70 and 100 beats per minute. To exercise safely, never exceed your maximum heart rate which can be calculated by taking your age away from 220 (e.g. if you’re 29 your maximum heart rate would be 191). Ideally, you should be working your heart to 50-70% of your maximum heart rate to build up a strong and healthy heart.
As for finding our your heart rate you can simply time your heart beats within a minute (ensure the clock has a second hand), using one of the machines offered in the gym to monitor your heart rate as and when you exercise or by using a fitness tracker with a heart rate monitor.
Once you’ve established your existing heart rate you can use the base results to help you track your goals.
A lower resting heart rate generally means better cardiovascular health. Your recovery heart rate, the rate measured 2 minutes after exercise, is indicative of how fit you are. The faster your heart rate reduces after exercise, the fitter you are; monitoring your heart rate after exercise and how quickly it returns to normal is so important to understanding your overall health.
Test your current heart health with further tips on what you can do reduce your risk of heart disease: https://www.bhf.org.uk/heart-health/risk-factors/check-your-heart-age