Keep Your Heart Healthy 365 Days a Year!

Simple Lifestyle Choices Can Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease

In the United States, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death among women and men. According to the CDC, about 600,000 Americans die of heart disease annually. This represents almost 25% of all U.S. deaths. To raise awareness of this disease, February has been recognized as “American Heart Month” since 1963. While much progress has been made in the last 53 years, with fewer Americans dying from heart disease and stroke since the 1980s, too many Americans are still dying from this preventable lifestyle disease. This February and every day of the year, you can lower your risk for heart disease by making simple lifestyle choices, and following these 8 heart-healthy tips.

Eight Heart-Healthy Tips to Follow all Year Long

1. Eat Healthy Fats: Yes, you can get healthy by eating fats-the right fats. According to Dr. William Sears, the biggest scientific breakthrough in the prevention of cardiovascular disease is that the type of fat in your diet is more significant in maintaining a healthy heart than the amount of fat in your diet.The healthiest fats to consume are fish fats due to the high concentration of omega 3s.

Omega 3s provide amazing benefits for the heart: a. can lower your blood pressure, decreasing the pounding pressure on your heart. b. increase nitric oxide which relaxes your arteries and improves blood flow by dilating blood vessels. This results in lower blood pressure. c. can reduce the stimulating effects of increased stress hormones. This means less wear and tear on the heart. d. can lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise good cholesterol (HDL). Also, it can lower triglycerides, which are considered the most artery clogging fats. Heart-healthy oils you should include in your diet are fish oils (seafood, especially salmon), flax oils, olive oil, Nut oils.

2. Eat More Plant-Based Foods: Experts agree that plant eaters outlive animal eaters. Eating more plant-based foods and less meat can help to lower high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and high blood sugar. To blunt the effect of a high-fat meal from affecting your heart, eat more plant-based foods during or while you eat, especially fruits and salads.

3. Decrease Sodium; increase potassium: According to a 2008 study from Harvard Medical School, people who ate twice as much potassium than sodium could cut their risk of cardiovascular disease in half. This balance helps to lower blood pressure. Some foods rich in potassium are: Salmon, medium potato with skin, figs, cantaloupe, artichokes, avocados, yogurt, and bananas. You can reduce your sodium intake by using sea salt; it is lower in sodium than regular table salt.

4. Get Lean/Stay Lean: If you are overweight or obese, you are at greater risk for heart disease that someone who is lean. The fatter you are, the more wear and tear on the heart. A lean body promotes a longer life. Losing weight and getting lean is one of the best things you can do for your heart.

5. Relax: The cardiovascular system and the nervous system are closely connected. Uncontrolled stress or chronic stress causes the brain to pour out stress hormones that stimulate the nerves around the vessels to constrict, resulting in high blood pressure and eventually causing the heart to wear out. Some effective ways to reduce stress are: listening to soothing music, deep breathing, exercise, laughter, and meditation.

6. Move: Physical activity or movement helps to increase nitric oxide which lowers blood pressure, and relax your arteries.  Engage in activities that get your heart rate up and pumping. Your heart will thank you for more nitric oxide.

7. Graze: What does it mean to graze? According to Dr. William Sears, when you eat more often, in smaller mini-meals-a pattern called grazing-you won’t feel hungry or uncomfortably full. Follow Dr. Sears’ rule of twos for heart-healthy eating: Eat twice as often, eat half as much, and chew twice as long.

8. Quit Smoking: According to the 2014 Surgeon General Report on smoking and health, smoking is a major cause of cardiovascular disease (CVD) and causes one of every 3 deaths from CVD. Chemicals in cigarette smoke cause the cells that line blood vessels to become swollen and inflamed. This can narrow the blood vessels and can lead to many cardiovascular conditions, but smoking damage is repaired quickly for most smokers who stop smoking. Even long-time smokers can see rapid health improvements when they quit.

For more information about the benefits of quitting, see the American Heart Association’s Web page entitled “Why Quit Smoking?” This page provides information about smoking and coronary heart disease.

Photo: www.canstockphoto.com

Resources:

William, Sears, MD, “Prime Time Health,” Chapt.3-pgs. 31-60

http://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/sgr/50th-anniversary/pdfs/fs_smoking_CVD_508.pdf

http://www.cdc.gov/genomics/resources/diseases/heart.htm


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