Group of people exercising in aerobics class

Get Your Heart Rate Up

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you get at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. Exercising daily does far more than burn calories and help you lose weight, it provides so many other health benefits one of which is improving the health of your heart. When you want to get your heart rate up, consider the following methods to keep your heart healthy.

Women warming up before exercise

Warm Up
Stretching before exercising is always a good idea, but in this case, we actually mean warming up your temperature. Environmental temperature can have a significant impact on your heart rate; the American Heart Association says that spending some time in warm air can increase your heart rate by anywhere from five to 10 beats per minute. While this may sound like a minuscule increase, it can actually have some pretty significant impacts on your heart when exercising. If you are exercising aggressively in high heat, you may run the risk of getting your heart rate up too high. If you ever experience light-headedness, dizziness or odd sensations in your chest, safely take yourself to a cooler location.

Aerobic Exercise
You probably know that if you want to get your heart rate up, cardiovascular exercise is one of the absolute best ways that you can do this. Taking a brisk walk around the block, spending some time on your bike or sweating it out in an aerobics class are all great ways to get your heart pumping faster. Your goal is to meet your target heart rate. If you aren’t sure what that number is, subtract your current age from 220 and then increase this number anywhere from 50 to 85 percent, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Meeting your target heart rate is an important way to improve your overall heart health.

Strength and resistance training

Strength and Resistance Training
If you don’t immediately equate strength and resistance training with a raised heart rate you aren’t alone, but you do want to reconsider. Aerobic exercise is imperative for a healthy heart, but a truly effective workout includes strength and resistance training in addition to your cardio. Performing bodyweight exercises, lifting weights and other resistance exercises provide a workout for your muscles. When you work out your muscles, they require more oxygenated blood, which will, in turn, lead to a higher heart rate.

Cardiovascular, or aerobic exercise, is perhaps the most well-known method for getting your heart rate up, but it is far from the only method. Any burst of activity like a vigorous home cleaning session, working in your garden or carrying boxes up and down stairs all will raise your heart rate. Strength training is also an important component in increasing your heart rate, and maintaining a strong and healthy body. Aim for 30 minutes per day of exercise, and if you are just starting out, be sure to clear your routine with your doctor and start low then increase the difficulty level of your workouts.

Woman having coffee

Daily Caffeine Doesn't Cause a Racing Heart

If you absolutely can’t start your morning without coffee or get through the afternoon without a cup of tea, you’re in for good news. For years, the healthcare community has advised against regular caffeine consumption because caffeine is thought to disturb the natural cardiac rhythm of your heart, but a recent study challenges this advice. Coffee, tea and dark chocolate are full of antioxidants that may actually benefit your heart’s health, and according to this study, they are safe to be consumed daily.

The Study
Close to 1,400 individuals were chosen to participate in a year-long study that looked at the effects of daily caffeine consumption on the heart. “Clinical recommendations advising against the regular consumption of caffeinated products to prevent disturbances of the heart’s cardiac rhythm should be reconsidered, as we may unnecessarily be discouraging consumption of items like chocolate, coffee and tea that might actually have cardiovascular benefits,” says the study’s senior author, Dr. Gregory Marcus, director of clinical research in the division of cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco. “Given our recent work demonstrating that extra heartbeats can be dangerous, this finding is especially relevant,” Marcus adds. Marcus is referring to research that points to extra heartbeats being a cause of heart problems and stroke, but this is in rare cases.

The Results
Researchers monitored the chocolate, coffee and tea consumption of each of the 1,400 participants, and participants wore portable devices that monitored their heart rhythm continuously for 24 hours. During the course of the survey, 61 percent of participants consumed more than one of the caffeinated products daily and the results were that those who consumed more than one caffeinated item each day had no extra heartbeats. These findings are important because “this was the first community-based sample to look at the impact of caffeine on extra heartbeats, as previous studies looked at people with known (heart rhythm disorders),” says study lead author, Shalini Dixit, fourth-year medical student at the University of California, San Francisco.

The results of this study are exciting and encouraging because it was previously thought that regular caffeine consumption was related to extra heartbeats or a racing heart. This University of California, San Francisco study challenges those beliefs and asserts that caffeine can be consumed daily. It is important to note that the study looked at caffeinated products that are known to have additional health benefits (coffee, green tea and chocolate) and not drinks health experts warn people to stay away from like soft drinks. Additionally, the study authors say that before determining whether or not there are additional health risks to heavy caffeine consumption, more studies are necessary.

This study seems to confirm that like most things, caffeine in moderation is safe for your heart, and that some of the products containing caffeine may have additional health benefits. The antioxidants in coffee, green tea and chocolate provide health benefits for your body by fighting inflammation, protecting against free radicals and can even help lower cholesterol and blood pressure. Enjoy these products in moderation, knowing that they won’t cause your heart to work overtime.

Woman making a heart shape with her fingers

Your Skin and Heart Health

What if you could predict your risk for cardiovascular diseases and conditions by the simple act of looking at your skin? While it might not be that easy, recent research suggests that there are links between the health of your skin and the health of your heart. Two major studies supporting this claim include one published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology and one published in the Journals of Gerontology. Keep reading to learn about the studies and what they mean for your health.

The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology Study
The skin/heart health study published in The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology involved more than 61,000 adults. Adults that had the inflammatory skin condition eczema were 48 percent more likely to have high blood pressure, 35 percent more likely to deal with adult-onset diabetes and 29 percent more likely to have high cholesterol than other adults. All of these ailments are risk factors that contribute to heart disease and the numbers remained the same, even after other factors that play into cardiovascular diseases such as alcohol consumption and activity levels, were controlled.

Why do those who have eczema find themselves at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease? While the exact answer is unknown, the most probable answer is that those with eczema have such intense chronic inflammation that it shows up throughout the body as opposed to just superficially on the skin. “It may be that chronic inflammation from eczema directly increases cardiovascular risk,” says Jonathan Silverberg, M.D., Ph. D, and assistant professor of dermatology and preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Silverberg notes that not all inflammation is a bad thing for your body, in face acute inflammation is the natural response your body has to harmful invaders, it is the constant deployment of natural killer cells and T cells that can interfere with vital functioning, including circulation. Additionally, Silverberg makes it clear that not everyone who suffers from eczema will have cardiovascular problems. You can help prevent both the health of your heart and skin by consuming antioxidant-rich produce, controlling stress levels and being sure to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night.

The Journals of Gerontology Study
Researchers from Leiden University Medical Center in the Netherlands in conjunction with scientists from Unilever observed 250 women who were separated into two groups by the researchers based on high and low cardiovascular disease risk. The scientist analyzed the skin of the faces and upper inner arms of the women and found that the women who appeared younger had lower blood pressure and heart disease risks. “We have found that the feature in the face that blood pressure was linked to was not skin wrinkles but likely what we term as ‘sag’ in the face. The exciting thing is further investigations will enable exact pinpointing of the feature in the face that signposts an individual’s blood pressure,” says Dr. David Gunn, senior scientist at Unilever.

You may not be able to determine your heart health and future cardiovascular disease risk by merely taking a peek in the mirror, but it seems that your skin may reflect more of your internal health than previously thought. You can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by engaging in a healthy, active lifestyle that includes low stress, adequate sleep and a nutritious diet. Not only will your heart thank you, but so will your skin.