You’ve heard the songs. From a classic like “Dil Deewana” (Crazy Heart) to “Dil To Pagal Hai” (My Heart is Going Crazy) to something newer like “Dil Diyan Gallan” (Talking Hearts), they all talk about how the heart and mind are, you guessed it, crazy in love. While singing about how your heart, or mind, is in love is one thing. Let’s make sure you’re aware of the benefits of a healthy heart and how to keep yours in tip-top shape!

The connection between mental health and a healthy heart

Feelings of love aside, studies show that risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity, are linked to poor brain health. This means that people with cardiovascular disease risk factors might also experience changes in how well their brain functions over time.

But guess what? Physical exercise can improve brain function and well-being. There are many ways to keep your brain active, just like there are many ways to keep your heart active! You don’t need to be like George St. Pierre to stay fit. Here are some easy ways to lower your risk of developing heart disease while keeping your brain healthy.

Heart-healthy activities for everyday

Heart-healthy push ups

Do some bodyweight exercises

Getting some exercise can be as simple as using your body weight. Doing a few push-ups, sit-ups, or triceps dips and slowly introducing them into your daily routine will give your muscles the movement and strength they’re probably craving.

Walk for 30 minutes

Brisk walking for just 30 minutes a day can reduce blood pressure by 5%. Among other things, like improving your ability to cope with stress, lowering your heart rate, and improving your sleep quality, walking can help keep your brain healthy, too.

Chores as exercise

Use daily chores as your exercise. Whether it’s shovelling snow, raking leaves, or organizing things around the house, every little bit of movement and physical exercise counts. Burn some calories by increasing your heart rate, and help prevent your house from turning into a pigsty.

Oxygen: good for your heart, good for your mind

It’s good to get that O2! When you get moving, your heart pumps oxygen-rich blood around your body. Here are two things that oxygen does for you.

  1. When your brain has the oxygen it needs, the chances of stroke, cardiac arrest, and irregular heartbeat are reduced. Just like you wouldn’t enjoy being interrupted during “Hockey Night In Canada: Punjabi Edition,” our brain cells need an uninterrupted supply of oxygen to function correctly.
  1. Having oxygen-rich blood flowing through your body is the way to go. When your heart can’t pump enough oxygen and blood to the rest of your body, that may result in heart failure . This is another important reason for staying physically active, eating a balanced diet, and maintaining heart health.

What’s a healthy heart rate?

A normal heart rate for healthy adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm). A healthy heart rate depends on age, gender, ethnicity, and lifestyle. Everyone is unique, so don’t compare your heart rate to other friends or family members. Try calculating your target heart rate using this calculator.

Heart disease is preventable

South Asian people living in Canada have a higher frequency of hypertension (high blood pressure), type 2 diabetes, a higher percentage of body fat, higher carbohydrate intake, and lower physical activity levels when compared to Caucasian Canadians.

Also, people of South Asian heritage, especially those older in age, are at a higher risk for heart disease. You can check your risk level here. While those are factors you can’t change, heart disease is preventable, and small changes to how you live your life can make a big impact. 

Choosing to be smoke-free, limiting alcohol use, reducing stress, and being physically active are all things that promote overall health and help reduce your risk of heart disease.

What you eat matters

Heart-healthy food

One of the easier things to take control of is what we eat. Now, I’m not saying you have to give up your favourite type of aam ka achar or pakoras, but there are ways to moderate what you eat with low-sodium options instead. Food can still be flavourful without too much salt.

A little salt goes a long way

While it’s best to cook from scratch to promote healthy eating habits, sometimes there are moments when you might have to buy packaged food items. I get it; we live busy lives. 

When shopping for food, keep in mind that a 5% daily value (5%DV) or less is “a little” sodium, while a 15% daily value (15%DV) or more is “a lot” of sodium. Most adults only need 1500mg of sodium per day, but people often consume much more.

Whether it’s a small change to physical activity or a swap of some ingredients in the food you eat, every positive choice you make brings you one step closer to lowering your risk for heart disease. Plus, when you reduce your risk for heart disease, you’re improving your chances of maintaining your brain function over time. Now that’s a two-for-one deal we should all be happy about!

Have you found low-sodium food hacks that you like? What’s your favourite way to sneak some exercise into a busy day? Let us know in the comments below!

In 10 minutes, learn your risk level for the 8 most common health conditions affecting Canadian men. Men’s Health Check is free, anonymous and backed by medical experts.