1. Stop Smoking. If you are still smoking QUIT. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. The American Heart Association and American Cancer Society agree that using tobacco is a top risk to your heart and your overall health. For help, call the ACS stop smoking line at 1-800-227-2345.
2. Lose Belly Fat. Carrying too much weight around the middle can raise blood pressure, affect blood lipids and can do other damage to the heart. Make your calories count by concentrating on a healthy, low-fat diet. Abdominal exercise can help work off the excess weight you have around the middle.
3. All you need is love. A healthy sex life can actually help you stay heart healthy. Several studies indicate that regular sexual activity can lower blood pressure and reduce your risk for developing heart disease.
4. Dance to the beat. Dancing is a fun way to get moving, raise your heart rate and burn some extra calories (between 150 -300 per hour). And, dancing works the backs of the thighs and buttock differently than any other kind of exercise, strengthens the core and releases endorphins that can improve your mood.
5. Go fish. Fish such as salmon, mackerel, sardines and herring, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, can reduce your risk of heart disease by at least one third. Fish high in mercury can pose a risk to women who are pregnant or nursing and children under 6. To calculate the mercury in fish you eat visit www.gotmercury.org.
6. Laughter is the best medicine. Not only does having a good belly laugh lift your mood, it actually is good for your heart. Laughing helps relieve stress that can damage the endothelium (or inner lining of blood vessels), makes for better blood flow, and promotes healthy blood vessels.
7. Yoga and your heart. More research is still needed, but some small, but promising studies suggest that yoga can help to lower the risks of heart disease by decreasing cholesterol levels, controlling blood sugar, lowering blood pressure and reducing stress hormones.
8. Skip the salt. Excessive salt intake is one of the leading causes for heart disease and stroke. The average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium a day – twice the 1,500 milligrams recommended by the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association. Check food labels. More than 75 percent of sodium intake comes from snack foods, soups, condiments, prepared foods and restaurant foods.
9. Get moving. Studies show that sitting for long periods of time can actually shorten your life. Get up and get moving. Walk around the office every hour or so. Park away from store entrances so you get a walk in on your way to shop. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk with a friend. Just keep moving. Your heart will thank you.
10. Know your numbers. If you have experienced elevated blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides, it’s important to stay on top of your numbers and make sure they are monitored regularly so they can be controlled through lifestyle changes or medications. Know where your numbers should be and don’t skip your physical exams.
11. Health by chocolate. Love chocolate? Here’s a prescription you will be glad to take. Rich, dark chocolate contains flavonoids that may help reduce the risk of heart disease, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
12. Get down/clean up. You may not think of housework as exercise, but put on some jammin’ tunes and you might find you enjoy the vacuuming and dusting a lot more and you are getting the blood pumping and the calories burning while you clean. Visit www.shapesense.com to calculate the number of calories you can burn during routine activities.
13. Go nuts. Take the advice of the American Heart Association and choose nuts for your go to snack. According to Mayo Clinic, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds and other tree nuts can help fight cardiovascular and coronary heart disease by reducing bad cholesterol. Eating nuts also reduces your risk of developing blood clots that can cause a fatal heart attack.
14. Adopt a pet. Thinking of sharing your home with a new kitten, puppy, or perhaps a loving shelter pet? You could have more to gain than unconditional love. According to a National Institutes of Health study, owning and caring for a pet can lower the risk of dying from heart disease and can possibly improve heart and lung function.
15. Pump it up. Strength training or resistance training not only helps build stronger muscles and bones, it can strengthen your heart. The American Heart Association recommends strength training as a tool for maintaining heart health, preventing heart disease and helping those with heart disease to improve their condition.
16. Trim the fat. Dietary fat is a leading cause of heart disease. By trimming your dietary fat intake to no more than one-third of your daily calories, you can significantly reduce your risk. Maintain a low-fat, nutrient rich diet-including low-fat dairy, whole grains, lean meats, fish and poultry, and five to eight servings of fruits and vegetables each day.
17. Drink to your health. Moderate consumption of alcohol (2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink for women) is believed to help to raise good cholesterol levels, help prevent artery damage and blood clot formation. Red wine, in particular has more benefits than other alcoholic beverages, according to some studies. Moderation is the key. Excessive use of alcohol comes with its own serious risks.
18. Brew a pot of tea. Studies from Harvard University and the National Institutes of Health suggest that drinking green or black tea can improve your arterial health. Drinking 3 to 4 cups of tea a day also can cut your chance of having a heart attack.
19. Take care of your smile. We all know we need to maintain good oral health to protect our teeth and gums, but regular dental care does more than keep your smile bright. Research from Harvard University suggests that heart health and oral health are connected. Studies have shown that people with moderate or advanced gum (periodontal) disease are more likely to have heart disease than those with healthy gums.
20. Learn to relax. Eliminating or reducing stress can help lower your blood pressure and improve your cardiovascular health. But, it’s hard to reduce stress levels when you never give yourself any downtime. Learn to turn off and tune out for a few minutes every day. Shut off the smart phone, power down the laptop or tablet or take the scenic way home from work – anything to shut out the worries of the day and give your mind and your heart a break.