In the spirit of Valentine’s Day this month, let’s keep your loving heart healthy! Heart disease can often be prevented with conscious diet and lifestyle. When pursuing a healthy lifestyle, keep in mind that the overall pattern of choices is what matters the most, not creating perfection. I like to tell my clients to practice the 80/20 rule- if you make healthy choices 80% of the time, there is more flexibility in the other 20% of the time.
Here are my top 8 tips about how you can keep your ticker in tip-top shape!
1. Go Fish. Recent research shows that eating oily fish containing omega-3 fatty acids (for example, salmon, trout, and herring) may help lower your risk of death from coronary artery disease. (1) For adults, at least two servings of omega-3-rich fish a week are recommended. A serving size is 3.5 ounces, or about the size of a deck of cards.
2. Eat Green. There is compelling evidence that a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can lower the risk of heart disease and stroke. The Harvard-based Nurses’ Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-up Study included almost 110,000 men and women and found that the higher the average daily intake of fruits and vegetables, the lower the chances of developing cardiovascular disease. Although all fruits and vegetables likely contribute to this benefit, green leafy vegetables such as lettuce, spinach, Swiss chard, and mustard greens; cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and kale make important contributions. (2)
3. Love your Nuts. The type of nut you eat isn’t that important, although some nuts have more heart-healthy nutrients and fats than do others. Eating nuts reduces your risk of developing blood clots that can cause a fatal heart attack. Nuts also improve the health of the lining of your arteries. Walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts all have a lot of nutrition packed into a tiny package.
4. Be Fiber-Friendly. Fiber helps lower your cholesterol. Fiber also makes you feel full, so you eat less. A study recently published in BMJ showed that people who indulge in foods rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber enjoy reduced risks of cardiovascular disease and coronary heart disease. Just seven extra grams of fiber per day significantly lowered the risk of both conditions. (3) Fiber is also thought to play a role in preventing diabetes.
5. Bust a Move. The American Heart Association recommends that you increase the amount and intensity of your physical activity. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days of the week or even better, at least 30 minutes every day. Regular physical activity can help you maintain your weight, keep off the weight that you lose and help you reach physical and cardiovascular fitness. If you can’t do at least 30 minutes at one time, you can add up 10-minute sessions throughout the day. Remember every move counts!
6. Drink in Moderation. If you drink alcohol, practice moderation. This means one drink per day if you’re a woman and two drinks per day if you’re a man. Drinking too much alcohol can elevate triglycerides, increase blood pressure, and heart failure. Excessive drinking and binge drinking can lead to stroke. Other serious problems include fetal alcohol syndrome, cardiomyopathy, cardiac arrhythmia and sudden cardiac death.
7. Bust the Sugar. Scientists aren’t certain exactly how sugar may contribute to deadly heart problems, but it has been shown to increase blood pressure and levels of unhealthy cholesterol and triglycerides; and also may increase signs of inflammation linked with heart disease. (4) Limit added sugars to no more than 15 percent of total daily calories.
8. Don’t Go Up in Smoke. Almost 20% of all deaths from heart disease in the U.S. are directly related to cigarette smoking because smoking is a major cause of coronary artery disease. A person’s risk of heart disease and heart attack greatly increases with the number of cigarettes he or she smokes. And smokers continue to increase their risk of heart attack the longer they smoke. As if you needed another reason not to smoke! The good news is that after one to two years of not smoking your risk of heart disease is greatly reduced. Love your heart and please stop smoking if you are a smoker!
1. Zheng J, et al. Fish consumption and CHD mortality: An updated meta-analysis of seventeen cohort studies. Public Health Nutrition. 2011;15:725.
2. Hung HC, Joshipura KJ, Jiang R, et al. Fruit and vegetable intake and risk of major chronic disease. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2004; 96:1577–84.
3. Threapleton D, et al. Dietary fibre intake and risk of cardiovascular disease: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ. 2013;347:f6879. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.f6879. Published online December 19, 2013.
4. Yang Q, et al. Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among US Adults. JAMA Intern Med. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.13563. Published online February 03, 2014.