It’s no secret that one’s susceptibility toward heart disease may be inherited – yet keeping your heart in tip-top shape doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult with savvy lifestyle choices.
Maintain a healthy weight & remember to move
Carrying extra weight, especially stomach fat, has a negative effect on blood pressure and arteries. But start to exercise, especially aerobic and strength conditioning, and cardiac risk factors tend to plummet. Whether it’s brisk walking, jogging or strength training, it’s all good for the ticker. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, five days a week.
Reduce stress & laugh more
Blood pressure and heart rate escalate with high levels of stress. Research shows that mental stress can be potentially damaging to your heart. Creating peaceful interludes throughout your day (or engaging in yoga, tai chi or meditation) provides respite. Laughter has also been found to have a beneficial effect upon the blood vessel lining – so keep that sense of humor alive and you’ll do your heart good.
Think ROYGBIV (acronym for the colors of the rainbow: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet)
Tomatoes, carrots, bananas, spinach, blueberries, plums, eggplant – filling your plate with a rainbow provides a powerhouse of antioxidants. Studies have shown that antioxidant-rich vegetables and fruits are an important preventive diet.
Knock out inflammation with high fiber
Not only are whole grains and legumes (like brown rice and lentils) more filling, they tout lots of soluble fiber. It’s fiber that’s the good guy in controlling damaging inflammation of the arteries. Barley, beans and oats are top choices.
Choose high quality proteins & fats
Select lean meats, vegetable-based protein and low-mercury fish high in omega-3s like salmon, sardines and trout. Look for fat-free, 1-percent fat and lowfat dairy products, and don’t forget to stock your cupboard with beneficial oils like canola, olive, safflower and soybean. Read nutrition labels carefully and keep an eye out for unfavorable trans fats.
Slash the sodium & say no to smoking
Beware of hidden sodium in canned and prepared foods. Current recommendations for those at risk are less than 2300mg of sodium per day (that’s about one teaspoon). Smokers have double the risk of heart attack than non-smokers, so don’t light up – pass on the cigarettes and your heart will thank you.