Here are 10 simple tips to help you promote a strong and healthy heart.
- Make your plate colorful! One of the best weapons for keeping your heart healthy is an antioxidant-rich diet. To get those antioxidants, try eating at least five to seven servings of fruits and veggies every day. Try adding at least three bright-colored foods to your plate at each meal.
- Lose weight —for your waistline and your heart! Excess weight, especially fat around your tummy (abdominal fat) has been linked to poor heart health. Losing just 5%–10% of your body weight can make a big difference—and many studies have shown you can also significantly lower your risk of heart problems by losing inches around your middle.
- Boost your vitamin D intake. Many of us worshipped the sun in our younger years, but we all need to be smart about decreasing time in the sun and using sunscreen. While those are good choices to make for skin cancer prevention, limiting sun exposure increases your risk of having lower levels of the Vitamin D your heart and bones need. Recent research confirms that a majority of Americans may have suboptimal levels of vitamin D—don’t be one of them! Look for a multivitamin that contains at least 800-1000 IU Vitamin D. Research confirms that many folks may even need more than 1000 IUs, especially if you are overweight, older than 60, spend a lot of time indoors, or are darker-skinned.
- Eat salmon or other omega-3-rich fish at least two to three times per week. Omega-3 fatty acids are important for heart health. Besides salmon, halibut and mackerel are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. If you don’t like fish, don’t worry. Research is quite strong showing that fish oil supplements are also heart healthy.
- Consider taking a CoQ10 supplement. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a vitamin-like substance vital for energy production, especially in your heart. The body makes its own CoQ10, but factors such as aging, poor diet, and exposure to pollution and other chemicals may increase your need for this nutrient. If you are using a statin drug, be sure to talk to your physician about taking a CoQ10 supplement.
- Add Phytosterols. Phytosterols, also known as plant sterols, are a group of naturally occurring compounds found in most plants. We don’t actually know how many plant sterols there are (certainly over 40), but the most important ones appear to be beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, and campesterol. The plant sterols look very similar to cholesterol, but actually block cholesterol absorption from the digestive tract.†
- Move more—at least two and a half hours every week. Regular physical activity promotes a healthy heart. So, get out there and MOVE! The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests that you should exercise at least 2 and a half hours every week. You don’t have to do it all at once, 10-15 minutes at a time works just as well. Walk the dog, play basketball with your kids. Try yoga or Pilates. If you’re going to the gym, be sure to get in least 45 minutes of cardio on the stationary bike, Stairmaster® or elliptical machine and 15-30 minutes of weight training.
- If you smoke, get help to stop—starting today! Cigarette smoke is strongly linked to heart and blood-vessel damage. Find a short-term reason to stop—saving money or having better-smelling breath, perhaps? We know smoking ages your skin—and you certainly don’t want any extra wrinkles, right?
- Get your regular health screenings If you are over 40, it is recommended that you have a physical exam every two years; if you are over 50, you should have one annually. Make your appointment today!
- Sidestep Stress. Over time, chronic stress wreaks havoc on our bodies—slowing digestion, weakening immune function, and is bad for the heart. There are many ways to reduce stress including exercise, meditation, getting away from computers and cell phones, and just simply laughing more.
Your heart health depends a lot on the choices you make every day. There is much that is within YOUR control! Here’s to your healthier heart!
†Products providing 400 mg of plant sterols and stanols, consumed twice a day with meals for a daily total intake of at least 800 mg, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.