Importance of Heart Health

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Your heart is the center of your cardiovascular system, and it is vitally responsible for just about everything that gives your body life -- ranging from the transportation of oxygen to the success of your immune system. However, the foods you eat and the amount of activity you choose to take part in can dramatically affect the overall health of your heart and the many other tissues that make up your cardiovascular system.

Blood Pressure

Your blood pressure is one area of heart health that needs to be regularly checked and regulated. High blood pressure, or hypertension, can be affected by your overall weight, especially once you reach a body mass index score of 30 or higher. This score is classified as obese. Excess fat increases the work your heart has to perform to pump blood throughout your body. The harder your heart works, the more pressure is placed on the walls of your arteries, which can increase your risk for blood vessel damage. Lowering your body weight by even as little as 5 to 10 percent can lower your blood pressure and increase your heart health.

Cholesterol Levels

Controlling your cholesterol also plays an important role in heart health; it decreases your risks for heart disease, heart attack and stroke. The two main kinds of cholesterol are low-density lipoprotein -- LDL or the "bad" cholesterol -- and high-density lipoprotein -- HDL or the "good" cholesterol. The LDL cholesterol is found in foods high in saturated fat, especially animal proteins. When consumed in high levels, LDL cholesterol can build up in the bloodstream and calcify into hard plaque. This plaque makes it difficult for blood to circulate through the affected arteries, increasing your risk for cardiovascular damage.

Circulation

Taking care of your heart also affects your circulation. Good circulation is needed to transport oxygen and nutrients to the many different cells in your body. Without proper circulation, tissues begin to die, which can result in amputations or even death, depending on what tissues are not getting enough oxygen. High blood pressure, cholesterol plaque and other heart diseases can all affect your body's ability to transport blood efficiently throughout your body.

Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy

To keep your heart healthy, your body needs adequate amounts of exercise accompanied by a heart-healthy diet. Get at least 30 minutes of exercise five days a week. A heart-healthy diet consists of the majority of your calories coming from vegetables, fruits and high-fiber foods like legumes and whole grains. These foods are accompanied in moderation by lean proteins, especially fish, as well as low-fat dairy products, nuts and seeds.

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