Deb St. Hilaire
Lifestyle changes can reduce your risk of developing serious heart conditions by more than 90%. That’s true even if you already have high cholesterol or high blood pressure.
If you want to protect your health but you’re still struggling to make major adjustments, you’re not alone. Many studies show that most adults have trouble making that kind of commitment. For example, less than 2% of Americans meet the 7 targets recommended by the American Heart Association.
On the bright side, even following through on one or two new tips can make a dramatic difference. Take a look at these heart healthy practices and find the ones that work for you.
Heart Healthy Diet and Exercise Tips
1. Eat more vegetables. Eating vegetables just three times a week can lower your risk of heart failure by more than 25%. For more progress, aim for at least 5 servings a day.
2. Focus on fiber and omega 3s. Fiber and omega-3 fatty acids help lower blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. Good sources of fiber include fruits, vegetables, and beans. Omega-3s are found mostly in fatty fish.
3. Choose other healthy foods.The American Heart Association recommends eating a variety of nutritious foods from each food group. They also suggest cutting back on sugary drinks and red meat.
4. Manage your weight.Obesity puts more strain on your heart. Watch the scale and talk with your doctor about how to maintain a body mass index under 30.
5. Watch your waist.Abdominal fat is of particular concern. Women are advised to keep their waistline under 35 inches, and under 40 inches for men.
6. Drink responsibly. Excess alcohol can take a toll on your heart and other organs. In general, up to one drink a day is safe for women, and two for men.
7. Work out regularly. The American Heart Association also encourages at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity. Train for strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular fitness.
8. Monitor your heart. Heart rate monitors aren’t just for athletes. There are simple devices to tell you how hard your heart is working and whether you’re overdoing it.
Other Heart-Healthy Tips
1. Start young. Heart disease is progressive, so the choices you make early in life can pay off. Give your kids a head start, especially if you have a family history of such conditions.
2. Quit smoking. Smoking increases the risk of heart failure by 86% for men and 109% for women. Give up tobacco, if you haven’t already done so. Avoid secondhand smoke too.
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3. Limit TV. Some studies show that watching TV for an hour or less a day can help. Substitute other activities like socializing with friends and family or taking a walk.
4. Sleep well.Sleeping at least 7 hours a night is another essential. To enhance the quality of your slumbers, go to bed and rise on a consistent schedule, darken your bedroom, and block out background noise.
5. Talk with your doctor. Have your cholesterol and blood pressure checked regularly. Your doctor can also help you understand your individual situation. That may include taking medication like a daily aspirin, and monitoring chronic conditions like diabetes.
When you think about how your heart pumps blood and oxygen for you around the clock, you might want to spend a little more time caring for this important organ. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, but most cases are preventable by eating a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding tobacco.