Although taking care of ourselves is the right thing to do, life’s commitments sometimes prevent us making healthy choices, in spite of good intentions. Caring for your body, however, is the best way to ensure you will continue living your busy, wonderful life and feel good while doing so. You can take care of yourself without devoting large amounts of time or hard work to health-centric activities.

5 Simple Tips to Keep Your Ticker Ticking in Tip-Top Shape

  1. Improve Diet and Stay Active – This advice permeates health-related information because diet and exercise keep, not just your heart, but your entire body healthy. Try to eat mostly clean, whole foods, eliminating processed products and sugary beverages. Avoid trans fats. If an item lists any hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated ingredients, then it contains trans fat.

An active lifestyle is also essential to maintaining a healthy heart. Doctors recommend at least 30 minutes of vigorous exercise (with breath, but working up a sweat) at least five days per week. It’s also a good idea to break up any long periods of sedation. Even if you exercise daily, sitting for stretches of time harms your body. Take stretching breaks or walk around while you are on the phone.

  1. Stay Away from Smoke – The recent e-cigarette craze has many smokers feeling like they are making healthy choices. Although e-cigarettes are slightly better than traditional cigarettes because their vapors do not contain as many toxins as smoke, they still contain nicotine which does plenty of damage to the heart and lungs. Both first-hand and second-hand smoke are harmful. So, even if you do not smoke or kicked the habit, be sure to keep your distance from others during their cigarette breaks.
  2. Floss – Good dental hygiene correlates with good heart health. Studies on the matter indicate that this is more than just a coincidence. The same type of bacteria responsible for gum (periodontal) disease also elevates the production of C-reactive protein, which marks inflammation in blood vessels. This bacteria travels from the gums, through the bloodstream, and into the heart where it puts patients with unhealthy gums at risk of developing heart disease, too.
  3. Relax – Although more research is needed to understand exactly why stress is related to heart disease, most studies indicate that the two are in fact connected. Whether the damage occurs due to constant exposure to stress-related hormones and elevated blood pressure or due to unhealthy stress-induced activities, such as excessive drinking, smoking, or emotional eating, anxiety is inextricably linked to heart disease. If you often feel like steam is shooting out of your ears, take action to calm down, relax, and find heart-healthy ways to blow off steam.
  4. Get Enough (Not Too Much) Sleep – According to the National Sleep Foundation, the amount and quality of sleep you clock each night is essential to a healthy heart. Not sleeping enough, or sleeping too much, can put you at risk of coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease – even if you do everything else right. This means that even if you exercise regularly, eat a healthy diet, never breathe a single puff of cigarette smoke, clean your teeth, and maintain a Zen-like state of mind, if you do not get the right amount of sleep at night, you could still be at risk. For healthy adults, the optimal amount of sleep for heart health falls between seven and nine quality hours. If you wake up feeling poorly rested, find it difficult to stay asleep, or have trouble making the trip to dreamland each night, talk with your doctor about steps you can take to improve your slumber, such as practicing proper sleep hygiene.

When making changes to your lifestyle and choices, it is best to start small and work your way up; drastic changes tend to overwhelm. Switch an afternoon soda for tea and take the stairs in the morning instead of the elevator. By making minor adjustments to your lifestyle and incorporating some of these simple self-care tips into your daily routine, you can do wonders for your heart’s health and, in turn, your longevity.