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10 Everyday habits that help your heart

Karen Hawthorne is a health and lifestyle writer and producer in Toronto, Canada. Her work has appeared in print and online for publications including Glow, Homemakers, and theNational Post.

10 Everyday heart-healthy habits

Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer in North America, so it's never too early to start paying attention to your health and taking steps to protect your heart. Dr. Peter Alagona, the program director of general cardiology at the Penn State Heart and Vascular Institute, says everyday changes to your lifestyle can make a big heart-healthy difference.

10 Everyday heart-healthy habits

6Track your food portions for heart health

Americans tend to eat few but large-volume meals and often snack on unhealthy foods. "We would probably all benefit from smaller but more frequent meals and healthy snacks," Dr. Alagona suggests.

7Keep hydrated for a healthy heart

Many people think they should drink eight glasses of water a day -- but coffee, tea, juice and soft drinks are 95 percent water, and many foods also contain substantial amounts of water, so this belief is simply not true, according to Dr. Alagona. But don't skimp. "Inadequate hydration may lead to a number of symptoms and problems, including dehydration, decreased blood pressure, electrolyte disturbances and fatigue," the doctor notes.

8Get outside to refresh your heart

We need fresh air and sunlight, especially in the northern and less sunny parts of the continent. Getting enough of both may help avoid vitamin D deficiency and the associated winter blues.

9drink Moderately to avoid heart disease

There is significant data that indicates moderate alcohol intake decreases the risk of heart attack and improves prognosis after it -- moderate intake being the equivalent of a shot of distilled spirits, 12 ounces of beer or a large glass (eight ounces) of wine a day. It's an important part of the diets of many regions such as France and other Mediterranean countries, that have populations with significantly lower heart disease rates.

10Take time for yourself and your heart

It seems everyone is busy all day long — working, talking, texting, driving the kids from here to there and the list goes on. "Sit down in a quiet place, take some deep breaths or practice some modest relaxation exercises, and relieve your tension and stress. After all, even a well-tuned machine or athlete needs a little rest or re-conditioning," concludes Dr. Alagona.

More on food and heart health

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Joining Shay Pausa is celebrity chef Gale Gand and Dr. Jennifer Mieres. They discuss how what we eat affects our heart.

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