February is Heart Health Awareness Month. Heart health should be celebrated daily since it’s one of our vital organs in our body. Our heart’s function is important and we can do so much to keep our heart working well.
Since our heart is a muscle, it gets healthy and strong when we exercise. If you don’t exercise it will get weaker just like any other muscle. Exercising regularly benefits our heart health by lowering blood pressure, reducing LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and increasing HDL or ”good” cholesterol.
What happens to our heart when we perform “cardio” or aerobic exercise? If you go for a run or if you ride a bike, your breathing, your circulation, and your heart rate will change immediately because you are activating your large muscle groups. This requires more oxygen-rich blood for energy. Your heart rate increases because your heart must pump more blood into your bloodstream. Your circulatory system has to send more blood to your muscles and back to the heart because your muscles need more oxygen. Your lungs have to work extra hard during exercise because of the amount of oxygen needed for your bloodstream.
If you work out regularly for at least 30 to 45 minutes, you are making your heart, lungs and circulatory system more efficient. Let’s put it this way; when you are going for a 30-minute run, it is not just your legs receiving the amazing benefits of this workout, your cardiopulmonary system is getting healthier and stronger as well.
Our nutrition impacts our heart health. Eating a more plant-based diet focused on vegetables, fruits, and grains improves our heart. Of course, we all know to reduce those foods that are bad for our heart like sugars, bad fats, and processed foods.
Exercise and good nutrition (and not smoking🚭) will make your heart a very happy camper!
By Lisy Espindola, LCSW, Healthy Leaving Director