Last year over 800,000 Americans died from heart attacks and other cardiac illnesses. Many of these deaths were preventable through lifestyle changes. How can you improve your heart health? It begins with these 10 strategies:
1. Get the Weight Off: Belly fat (known as visceral fat) has been linked with hardening of the arteries and heart disease. While we may want to lose the fat that’s on our hips, backside and thighs, fat in our mid-section is especially dangerous when it comes to our hearts. Even losing 10% of your body weight can improve your blood pressure, lower cholesterol and improve overall health.
2. Include healthy fats and avoid the unhealthy ones: Fats like olive oil are beneficial to heart health because they contain mono unsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) which help lower your risk of heart disease by lowering your total cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, known as “bad cholesterol”) levels. Research is also showing that MUFAs may also help with blood clotting and help balance blood sugar control, which is helpful for diabetics (who are often at risk for heart disease as well.) While certain fats are healthy, others are best avoided. Avoid Trans Fats, which increase LDL cholesterol. Foods that contain "hydrogenated oil" or "partially hydrogenated oil" contains trans fat.
3. Increase your intake of foods with Omega-3: Foods high in Omega-3 lower triglycerides, blood pressure and can also help prevent irregular heart rhythms which is important for a healthy heart. Great sources of foods with a high Omega-3 content can be found in flax seeds, salmon, walnuts and chia seeds.
4. Eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables: fruit and vegetables are filled with nutrients, vitamins, antioxidants and fiber, so a diet rich in fruits and vegetables helps reduce blood pressure (which contributes to heart disease) while helping you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
5. Reduce inflammation: While genetics play a role in creating inflammation, foods do as well. Pro-inflammatory foods contribute to heart disease and can easily be controlled with a heart healthy diet. These foods are foods containing trans fats, fried foods, sugar and grains.
6. Exercise: Regular exercise helps control your weight, lower blood pressure, manage stress, raise HDL (good) cholesterol while lowering overall cholesterol levels. That’s plenty of reasons to get moving!
7. Sleep: When your body is deprived of restful sleep, stress hormones are released, which promote fat storage and raise blood pressure. Add that to a feeling of being fatigued and unfocused which leads to searching for energy (typically through sugar or caffeine) and not enough energy to exercise.
8. Stop smoking: Smoking causes an irregular heartbeat, hardens your arteries and raises blood pressure. If that’s not enough to get you to kick the habit, smoking causes you to age more quickly while causing other lung and respiratory conditions as well.
9. Stress less: Chronic stress releases hormones that raise blood pressure and contribute to weight gain and belly fat storage. Try yoga, meditation, journaling, music or deep breathing exercises to help soothe, calm and relax you.
10. Better dental care: According to the BBC News: "It is known that inflammation in the body, including in the mouth and gums, has an important role in the build up of clogged arteries, which can lead to a heart attack.… Researchers found those with the worst oral hygiene had a 70 percent increased chance of developing heart disease compared with those who brush their teeth twice a day. “
Including any of these strategies will slowly create a healthier heart while helping you improve your overall health. Just choose a few of these strategies to start with and keep moving forward!
Which strategy will you chooose? I'd love to know, comment and share!