Do you wish you had more energy to do the things you love or even just to get through the day without feeling exhausted? Are you looking for ways to improve your heart health? Despite what the ads are telling you, fast-fix energy drinks, double lattes and caffeine-laden sodas aren’t the answer. The key to boosting energy is making healthy, lasting lifestyle changes. Here’s a list of five simple heart-healthy, energy-boosting strategies:
- Move More – It may seem counterintuitive to exert more energy when you’re already dragging, but research has shown that by slowly increasing your movement, over time your energy levels will increase, too. Start small with a walk around the block and work your way up. Your goal should be 30 minutes of brisk activity five days a week for a total of at least 150 minutes per week. Already wondering where you’re going to find the time? You don’t have to do all 30 minutes at once. Three 10-minute walks in a day works too. Doing too much too fast can lead to injuries, so start slowly and most importantly, stick with it.
- Cut Cholesterol – Aside from the cardiovascular damage high cholesterol can cause, it can also affect your weight and energy levels. The three are related; as your weight increases, so does your cholesterol. The higher your weight and cholesterol, the lower your energy levels. Cut cholesterol by choosing healthy, nutrient-rich foods such as fruits, vegetables and fiber-rich whole grains. Avoid big meals with too much salt, sugar and saturated fat; high-calorie foods with very little nutrients can leave you feeling groggy. Eating smaller, more frequent meals over the course of the day can help you feel more alert and energetic.
- Sleep Soundly – The relationship between sleep and heart disease resembles a two-way street. Poor sleep can interfere with the heart and heart disease can disturb sleep. No matter which way you go, lack of sleep leads to lack of energy. On average, most adults require around seven hours of sleep each night. Research shows that getting the right amount of sleep is critical. Too little or even too much sleep can have a negative effect on your blood pressure and your heart.
- Lose Weight – carrying around extra pounds saps your body of energy. It creates extra work for your heart and can raise blood pressure, too. In its Guidelines for the Treatment of Overweight and Obesity, The National Institutes of Health report that a 5 to 10 percent weight loss can make a huge difference in reducing your risk of heart disease. Weight loss also affects energy levels. A decrease in body weight can make what would otherwise be a hard activity much easier. Less body weight means you use less energy to move and perform daily activities. When you expend less energy, you have more available for other physical activities throughout the day. This extra energy represents some of the energy boost people experience when losing weight.
- Reduce Stress – Stress is an inevitable part of life. But if left unmanaged, stress can lead to devastating heart health problems, including high blood pressure, chest pains, or irregular heart beats. Studies have shown that high levels of cortisol – the stress hormone – are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. Stress can also leave you feeling like you’re in a fog, with no energy. Learning to manage stress is critical. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle, including diet and exercise and even just taking time for yourself to do the things you enjoy are helpful and can increase energy levels.