February is American Heart Month and according to the American Heart Association, about 2,150 Americans die each day from these diseases. That is one every 40 seconds. Cardiovascular diseases claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined.
Scary, right? But here is the good news. Since heart disease is usually a result of lifestyle choices you make every day, you can begin to make new choices, starting today, that will significantly decrease your risk of developing or dying from a cardiovascular condition, no matter where your heart’s health stands right now.
Here are five tips for a healthier heart:
1. Watch and know your weight. In a world of increasingly less activity, thanks to computers and smart phones leading to more sedentary lifestyles, as well as consuming more food, we are at our fattest ever. Your weight relative to your height is an important indicator of your cardiovascular disease risk. While you don’t need to weigh yourself everyday, knowing what you should weigh is a good baseline. Get to know your BMI, as well. Body Mass Index (BMI) is a number calculated from a person’s weight and height. Anything over 30 is considered obese.
2. Exercise. Exercise may be the best medicine for a happy, healthy heart. Regular cardiovascular exercise raises good cholesterol levels, lowers blood pressure, improves circulation throughout the body, helps you maintain a healthy weight, and keeps your heart functioning more efficiently even when you’re at rest. Of course, it’s always a good idea to check with your health care practitioner before beginning any new exercise program.
3. Stop eating crap. Yes, we eat a lot of crap. Anything in a box, can or bag usually is not great for you. Stick to fruits, veggies, lean proteins, good fats and eggs. Make it a rule to include at least one serving of a vegetable or fruit every time you eat a meal or have a snack, to ensure that you get within the range recommended for optimal heart health, which is five to ten servings per day.
Great heart-healthy choices include tomatoes and lycopene-rich,tomato-based sauces, leafy greens, nutritional powerhouses such as broccoli and cabbage, and varying combinations of other colorful, antioxidant-rich vegetables.
Monounsaturated fats found in olive oil, avocados, and many nuts and seeds can lower both your total cholesterol levels and LDL cholesterol.
Olive oil is also thought to be a potent anti-inflammatory food. A Mediterranean-style diet rich in olive oil, whole grains, legumes, fish, and vegetables has long been noted for its heart-healthy benefits.
4. Supplement with an Omega 3. Omega-3 fatty acids, found naturally in oily fish such as salmon, as well as flaxseeds and walnuts, have been established by a multitude of studies to be a healthy heart super-nutrient, preventing heart disease and improving outcomes and survival in those who already suffer from poor heart health.
5. Sleep. Aim to get at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Most of us are sleep deprived, and many studies have shown that this takes a direct toll on your heart’s health. Sleeping less than seven hours a night is associated with high blood pressure, increased levels of stress hormones, weight gain, and the development of diabetes.
Photo from here, with thanks.