Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading killer of people of most ethnicities in the US. Although some of the risk factors associated with heart disease are genetic, there are many things you can do to protect your heart and lower your risk significantly. Here are 11 excellent heart health tips to keep you healthy and happy.
#1 – Get Moving
The American Heart Association claims that becoming more active can reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 40%. The best part? You don’t have to go to the gym every day to reap the benefits. In fact, if you can take a brisk 30-minute walk once per day, that’s really all you need keep your heart healthy. If you have an existing heart condition, talk to your doctor about the intensity of your workouts before you get started.
#2 – Check Your Blood Pressure
One of the best and most important heart health tips centers on your blood pressure. High blood pressure (often called HBP) is known as the “silent killer” because it rarely causes any physical symptoms. Check your blood pressure regularly, and aim for a reading of 120/80. If yours is high, try relaxing for an hour and checking it again. If it’s still high, make an appointment with your doctor right away. A 2011 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that treating high blood pressure early can add years to your life.
#3 – Get More Potassium
A study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that potassium can counteract some of the harmful effects associated with a high-sodium diet. With that in mind, don’t just buy a potassium supplement and hope for the best. Instead, start reducing the number of salty and processed foods you consume and instead eat foods that are naturally high in potassium. Good choices include potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, yogurt, and even citrus fruit.
#4 – Load Up on Antioxidants
Back in 2007, Swedish researchers found that women who consumed a high level of antioxidants had a 17% less risk of stroke compared to those who consumed the fewest number of antioxidants. This is one of the most delicious heart health tips of them all since the foods containing the highest concentrations of antioxidants are also some of the tastiest. Try foods like berries, apples, and even cocoa to get the ball rolling.
#5 – Swap Salt for Herbs and Spices
Your blood, sweat, and tears are just as salty as the sea, and this balance is necessary for your health. However, cultures around the world regularly consume far more salt than is required, which can have a negative impact on your heart health. By incorporating more herbs and spices into your food, you can still get all the flavor you crave with less salt than you might use otherwise. Herbs are packed with antioxidants and other chemicals that can improve your health, so don’t skimp on the sage, rosemary, dill, or peppermint.
#6 – Choose Fish Instead of Steak
Although there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a juicy steak now and then if you’re otherwise healthy, it’s a great idea to swap it out for a cut of oily fish. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends eating fish like salmon, tuna, bluefish, sardines, and mackerel twice per week. More importantly, they claim that while omega-3 supplements are typically safe and in some cases even beneficial, they cannot take the place of consuming fish. In the journal, Hypertension, a Danish study showed that women of childbearing age who ate fish regularly had a 90% lowered risk of cardiovascular issues than those who never ate fish.
#7 – Hide Some Flaxseed in Your Food
One of the simplest and easiest heart health tips to incorporate into your lifestyle right now involves adding flaxseed to your diet. They’re virtually tasteless, and you can use them whole for some added crunch or grind them in a coffee grinder for use in soups, smoothies, and even your breakfast cereal. They contain a compound called ALA, which is an essential fatty acid that may reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
#8 – Choose Healthier Cooking Oil
If you’re using shortening, lard, or even bacon fat to cook your food regularly, consider switching to nonfat cooking spray or, at the very least, a liquid vegetable oil. These contain fewer saturated fats, which can raise your LDL cholesterol levels. Better yet, go for olive oil, which contains antioxidants that keep your healthy HDL cholesterol in check at the same time.
#9 – Shed a Few Pounds
The American Heart Association has published study after study linking obesity to heart disease, and this is particularly true in men who have high amounts of fat around their waists. To see if you’re at risk, measure your waist with a tape measure. If yours is 40 or more inches in circumference, you’re considered high risk for heart disease. Lifestyle changes, such as a healthier diet that is low in saturated fat along with regular exercise, can get you back into the low-risk zone in no time.
#10 – Make an Appointment with Your Dentist
This may seem like one of the more unusual heart health tips, but a recent study in Taiwan showed that people who went to the dentist twice per year for regular cleanings had a 24% lower risk of suffering a heart attack compared to people who never went to the dentist. Per the study, having your teeth cleaned professionally reduces bacterial growth that leads to inflammation in your heart and blood vessels.
#11 – See Your Doctor Once a Year
Nobody truly enjoys going to the doctor, but there’s absolutely no denying that an annual checkup can save your life. Things like high sodium levels, high cholesterol, and even high blood pressure often have zero symptoms, which means you could have a massive heart attack before you realize something is wrong. Your doctor will check these things (and others) each year to help you get and stay as healthy as possible.
These heart health tips are often easy to implement into your daily life. For the most part, it’s all about eating right, exercising regularly, and doing your best to maintain a healthy weight throughout your life. It’s also vital to see your doctor and your dentist at least once per year.