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5 things to do today to strengthen your heart

Mary Fetzer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant with a marketing degree from Penn State University and 15 years of international business experience. Mary specializes in writing about parenting, children, pregnancy, college, h...

Easy ways to
improve heart health

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in America according to the American Heart Association, but there are things you can do today to fight back.
Woman taking deep breath
Heart Health

Easy ways
to fight back

Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in America according to the American Heart Association, but there are things you can do today to fight back.

1

Take a deep breath

True relaxation — the kind that relieves stress — calms tension in your body and in your mind. Calming activities can relax blood vessels and the heart, resulting in a lower blood pressure. But relaxation is an art that consists of more than just chilling out in front of the TV.

Starting today, take 10 to 15 minutes to sit quietly twice daily. Find a time and place that keep interruptions at bay. Breathe deeply and slowly while picturing a peaceful scene. Inhale and imagine the breaths sending precious oxygen throughout your body. Exhale, trying to empty your lungs completely.

Once you've mastered mini-deep-breathing sessions, take it to the next level. Consider trying a class in yoga or meditation (with your doctor's approval, of course).

2

Pack a tuna wrap

Doctor William Castelli is medical director of a wellness program at the Metro West Medical Center in Framingham, Massachusetts, a center that specializes in aggressive management of cardiovascular disease risk factors.

"Twice a week, swap a less-healthy protein such as a beef, pork, [or] lamb, which carries a higher risk of saturated fat and cholesterol, for a leaner protein such as fish," suggests Dr. Castelli. "Good fish options include sardines, anchovies, salmon, herring, mackerel, trout and even canned, white tuna."

For lunch today, instead of hitting the vending machine or closest drive-thru, get a hearty dose of omega-3s with some heart-healthy tuna and fresh, crisp lettuce on a wrap.

3

Swap a cup of joe for a glass of juice


Welche's Healthy Start

Stop smoking. Smoking increases heart rate and blood pressure and can lead to 'clumping,' or possible blood clot formation, in the blood vessels.Limit your caffeine intake. Caffeine is present in coffee, tea, soft drinks and chocolate. Consuming a moderate amount — no more than a cup or two of coffee — is plenty.

Skip the late, late show. When it comes to heart health, getting sufficient, high-quality sleep is just as important as dieting and exercising. Poor sleep quality puts one at a surprisingly increased risk of developing high blood pressure.

4

Sit and squeeze

It's important to get up and move. Exercise is vital for a healthy heart. But you can actually lower your blood pressure while sitting in your desk chair, too!

Isometric exercises can be done anywhere and require very little movement. Isometric movements are those in which you contract large muscles without actually moving the body part — a static hand grip or flexing of the buttocks muscles, for example.

Shoot for 20-minute sessions of contracting and relaxing. While seated, squeeze your inner thighs for two minutes. Relax the muscles for two minutes. Repeat five times.

5

Buy a blood pressure monitor

A healthy blood pressure reading is the sign of a strong heart, and keeping an eye on those numbers is an easy way to monitor your health and prevent high blood pressure (the silent killer) from sneaking up on you.

It's not practical to visit the doctor every day to check your blood pressure, so consider monitoring it at home. Your regular home readings, when compared with those of your occasional doctor's office visits, are a great way to track your cardiovascular health.

An imprecise blood pressure treatment can lead to treatment that's not right for your body, so accuracy is the key. These guidelines will help you choose a reliable home monitoring device:

Tip: For more help on monitoring your blood pressure at home, visit FamilyDoctor.org.
  • Opt for a device that measures blood pressure from your upper arm. Avoid monitors that take readings at the fingertip or wrist.
  • Choose a monitor that is easy to read and one that can save, download and print your readings.
  • Check the dabl Educational Trust website to verify that your device has been approved for home use.
  • Take the monitor with you on your next doctor's appointment. Your doctor can provide guidance on how to monitor and read your blood pressure and can calibrate your device for accuracy.

More on heart health

6 super foods for your heart
Easy low-sodium substitutes for cooking
7 preventable heart disease risk factors

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