Heart Health – Exercise vs. Diet

Heart Health

Cardiovascular health is a hot topic these days. Heart disease is the leading cause of death among most groups in the United States. Diet and exercise are often touted as the best ways to prevent heart disease, but is one more effective than the other?  In this article, we will discuss the benefits of exercise and the benefits of diet for heart health.

Dangers of Heart Disease

Heart disease is all too common among Americans. Every year, approximately 805,000 Americans have a heart attack, and over 380,000 people die of coronary heart disease. The complications of heart disease include heart failure, heart attack, stroke, cardiac arrest, and more. While it is impossible to get rid of your risk for heart disease completely, there are lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk and improve your physical health.

Benefits of a Healthy Diet

When you hear the word “diet,” you likely think of a short-term, restrictive eating change aimed at rapid weight loss. Rather than restricting eating, your diet refers to your eating and drinking habits and behaviors. When talking about your diet, we want to focus on the nutrition you receive from your diet. Nutrition refers to the properties and quality of the food you consume. This can play a huge role in your heart health.

When referring to heart health, we often use the phrase metabolic health. This phrase refers to how your body breaks down sugars and fats. It is often associated with age, weight, genes, etc. Nutrition that supports your metabolic health can reduce your risk for diseases like type 2 diabetes, stroke, some cancers, obesity, and even age-related memory loss.

Eating a balanced diet can mean different things for different people, depending on age, gender, preferences, and other factors. In general, focusing on consuming various fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains, and healthy fats is a good place to start.

Benefits of Exercise

Exercise has numerous benefits for cardiovascular health. Regular exercise can regulate blood pressure, reduce your risk for diabetes, help you maintain a healthy weight, and more. These factors all contribute to one’s heart health. Additionally, exercise can reduce stress through the release of hormones, which can also reduce your risk of heart disease. 

In addition to exercise having a variety of benefits, exercise also comes in various forms. While all exercise is beneficial, there are two types of exercise that are specifically beneficial for metabolic health. Resistance exercise applies force to muscles to increase muscle tissue. Sit-ups, squats, weight training, and pushups are all examples of resistance exercise. 

The second type of exercise is cardiovascular exercise, more commonly known as cardio. This type of exercise is identified by an increased heart and breathing rate. Activities such as biking, running, swimming, and dancing are all cardiovascular exercises. This type of exercise provides loads of benefits for the heart. It can improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels, maintain weight, lower your risk for heart disease, and more.

It is important to remember that some exercise is better than no exercise at all, so even if you do not enjoy running or swimming, you can still find ways to get active each day.

Combined Diet and Exercise: a Recipe for Healthy Living

So which is more effective: exercise or diet? In truth, neither is more important than the other. Numerous studies show that diet and exercise are equally effective in improving heart health and reducing one’s risk for heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends balancing food and caloric intake with physical activity to achieve optimal heart and physical health. Combining healthy eating and regular exercise will help you improve your physical health and longevity.

Before starting any new exercise routine or nutrition changes, be sure to speak with your doctor first! Regular heart health screenings are an important step in ongoing health.

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