Confucius once said, “Wherever you go, go with all your heart.” But if your heart isn’t healthy enough, the “wherever you go” part may be limited. Your heart is such an important part that often gets overlooked or taken for granted. According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular (heart) disease is the leading cause of death in the world, accounting for 17.3 million deaths a year—a number only expected to rise in the coming years. Make the goal today to treat your heart better through nutrition and exercise.

Here at the YMCA, we want you to be as healthy and happy as possible, so here are some great heart-healthy foods and exercises to get you started:

Food for Your Heart

  • Oatmeal is filled with omega-3 fatty acids, folate, and potassium that all help to keep your heart and body healthy. Because it is so fiber-rich, it actually lowers LDL cholesterol (aka the bad kind), which helps keep arteries clear and prevent heart attacks and other diseases. Try coarse or steel-cut oatmeal instead of the instant kinds for best nutrition.
  • Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids which lowers your triglyceride (blood fat) levels. This will help reduce blood pressure and prevent clotting. Wild salmon is always healthier than farm-raised, as it lacks the pesticides and other chemicals used in salmon farms. Other oily fish like mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines can also give your heart the same benefits!
  • Avocado is one of the best sources for heart-healthy fats or monounsaturated fats. These lower that nasty LDL cholesterol while also raising the amount of HDL (aka the good kind) cholesterol in your body. Plus, avocado works well with almost any food. Try substituting avocado for mayo in your next sandwich.
  • Olive oil is another great source of monounsaturated fat, which lowers LDL levels and reduces the risk of developing heart disease. Consider using olive oil instead of butter!
  • Legumes contain omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, and soluble fiber that makes your body happy and healthy. Plus, the extra fiber will help you feel full faster!

Exercises for Your Heart

The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity 5 days a week and moderate to high-intensity strength training activity twice a week.

There are many different exercises for you to try to keep variety in your workout schedule:

  • Swimming is a great exercise that uses practically every muscle of your body. While giving yourself an invigorating cardiovascular workout, you will also be toning your muscles and getting in great shape.
  • Running/walking is also a great and easy way to workout your heart. If you can’t run very well, start by speed walking on the treadmill and slowly work your way up through interval training.
  • The elliptical is another option if you’d rather not use the treadmill. This is a great option for cardio exercise, as it’s a low-impact exercise on your joints while also giving allowance to push yourself every day.
  • Sports, such as basketball, pickle ball and tennis, are other great cardio options to keep your heart pumping and your enjoyment levels high.

The Greater Naples YMCA is here to help you reach your heart and health goals. Please let us know if we can help you in any way or if you would like assistance or training with any of our cardio equipment.