Our hearts are one of the most vital organs in our bodies and without them, we wouldn't be here. Heart attacks are the number one killer of Americans today, and it's time to start changing that. The foods we eat play a crucial role in how healthy our hearts are. By making small, subtle changes to our diets, we can significantly improve our heart health and live longer, healthier lives.
The healthiest breakfast? Steel cut oats with blueberries and flaxseeds. Blueberries are loaded with antioxidants and flaxseeds are rich in omega-3 fats, both proven to improve heart health.
Start each day off with a bowl of warm oatmeal to help lower cholesterol and keep your heart beating strong. Steel cut oats provide the most nutritional value, so opt for those and throw in a handful of blueberries for an added boost.
Almonds and walnuts
Need a pick-me-up? Grab a handful of almonds for an extra boost of energy during the day. Almonds help lower cholesterol, fight fatigue and are rich in monounsaturated fat. Walnuts have the highest amount of alpha-linolenic acid of any other nut, which improves cardiovascular function and blood pressure.
Yogurt protects against gum disease, and gum disease leads to heart attacks. It helps in weight loss and aids in digestion. Our favorite is Greek yogurt, which contains more protein and fewer carbohydrates than the regular kind.
Whole grains are loaded with fiber, which correlates with a lower risk of heart disease. Those who have a diet rich in whole grains are typically leaner and have lower cholesterol than those who don't. Foods rich in whole grains include beans, citrus fruits, quinoa, oats and brown rice.
Black and pinto beans help lower your risk of heart attacks due to their high fiber content. Basically, they prevent cholesterol from being absorbed into your system. No need to go overboard — half a cup is all you need to get the benefits.
If you are serious about lowering your risk for heart disease, consume 2-3 servings of salmon per week to reduce your chances by 30 percent. Salmon contains high amounts of omega-3s, which lower blood pressure and can help regulate your heartbeat.
Ahh, another reason it's good to drink red wine. Moderate drinkers of red wine have a smaller risk of heart disease than those who choose not to drink at all. The key is moderation, though, and that is one 5-ounce glass for women. Red wine increases estrogen, prevents blood clots by thinning the blood and raises good cholesterol. Cheers to that!
Other ways to improve heart health
Exercise. The heart is both an organ and a muscle, and muscles need to be worked in order to be more useful and productive. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car at the back of the lot or go for a walk each evening. Start small and remember that the little things do add up.
- Don't smoke. Smoking increases your risk for both heart disease and cancer. Essentially, you're paying money to slowly destroy yourself.
- Visit your doctor regularly. Visit your doctor annually to check for high blood pressure and discuss your overall health. Know what's going on inside your body.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Studies show overweight people are more likely to experience cardiovascular disease, so eat right and exercise to keep your body at its ideal weight.
- De-stress. Finally, don't stress! Stress raises your blood pressure and heart rate. Go for walks, meditate or simply turn off the computer and phone every day for at least 15 minutes.
More on heart health
Characteristics of a heart-healthy diet
Take care of your heart — on the cheap
Heart health tips from Top Chef alum Antonia Lofaso