3 Easy Ways to Improve Heart Health
February 19, 2014
Registered Dietitian Alina Zolotareva shares some simple tips on how to avoid heart disease, America’s leading cause of death.
Taking care of our hearts should be a top priority since heart disease and stroke are the leading causes of death for men and women alike, accounting for 1 in every 3 deaths in the US (CDC, 2014).
Fortunately, we can reduce our risk of heart disease with some healthy dietary and lifestyle habits.
Show your heart some love by following these easy tips:
1. Get your heart pumping with aerobic exercise
Regular, moderate-to-intense aerobic exercise is key for a healthy heart and a good way to maintain a healthy weight. Try to get your heart pumping for 30-40 minutes, 3-4 times each week with activities such as jogging, biking or swimming.
You’ll be more motivated to exercise if you’re doing something you enjoy, rather than running on a treadmill. Wake up your inner child and get the blood flowing — for example, play Frisbee with your kids, take a salsa dance class with some friends or simply go for a brisk walk to your favorite playlist.
2. Eat good fats & drink more wine
Eating the right types of fats can help protect your heart and blood vessels from oxidative damage and slow the development of atherosclerosis. Avoid overeating foods high in saturated fats (red meat, full-fat dairy, lard, etc.) and incorporate more healthy fats into your diet in the form of omega-3s (fatty fish, flaxseed, chia seeds, walnuts), monounsaturated fats (extra virgin olive oil) and polyunsaturated fats (nuts and seeds avocado).
In addition to healthy fats, eating a balanced diet rich in fruits, veggies, lean protein and whole grains is important for good heart health.
A daily glass of red wine (4 oz) can help you to wind down while providing a nice dose of resveratrol, an antioxidant thought to boost healthy HDL cholesterol. Pair your wine with dry fruit and 1-2 oz of dark chocolate (70-80% cocoa) for a sweet end to the day. Luckily for us, fruit and dark chocolate have antioxidant flavonoids which provide a host of protective vascular benefits.
3. Give yourself a break!
Hectic schedules, inconsistent and inadequate sleep patterns and various life events often contribute to excess anxiety and stress. Though stress affects everyone differently, consistently elevated levels of stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline may increase the risk of hypertension, heart attack and stroke (American Heart Association, 2013). Stress also makes it more challenging to maintain a healthy diet and lifestyle habits.
Do your best to give yourself a break once in a while and consciously commit to stressing less. Getting adequate sleep, regularly exercising and incorporating meditation techniques are all healthy ways to improve stress levels.
Remember, to have a healthy body and a healthy heart, you also need to have a calm and healthy mind!
Are you taking care of your heart? Share your heart health tips in the comments below!
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