Keeping your ticker tocking takes more than regular aerobic exercise. You also need a plan from the inside out, namely a healthy diet with an occasional treat (think: bite of dark chocolate, glass of red wine) and a healthy lifestyle.
A healthy lifestyle doesn’t mean a painful overhaul of your current daily habits. Here are 10 easy lifestyle tips to boost your heart health.
Eat at least 25 grams
of fiber daily
Studies link a high-fiber diet with a lower risk of heart disease. Fiber in oats, beans and citrus fruits, such as oranges, helps reduce “bad” cholesterol levels.
Eat colorful vegetables
Vegetables and fruits contain healthful compounds called flavonoids, which act as antioxidants and can reduce the risk of inflammation and may help prevent cardiovascular disease.
Reduce the sodium
in your food
Cut back on salt by reading labels. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults, in general, should consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, approximately a teaspoon.
Indulge a little
with dark chocolate
Pure dark chocolate (not milk chocolate, unfortunately!) contains a high amount of naturally occurring catechins, a heart-healthy antioxidant. For calories’ sake, limit yourself to an ounce a day.
Watch your waist
Belly fat is a clear predictor of increased risk of heart disease. Studies show that for every extra two inches of belly fat, your risk of heart disease increases by 20 percent.
Know the symptoms
of a heart attack
Women can experience pain in the arm, back and even teeth that is actually associated with the heart. If you are experiencing abnormal pain, see a doctor immediately.
Eat low-fat and the right fat
Eat foods that are low in saturated fat, cholesterol and trans-fat (partially hydrogenated fats), all of which may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Also eat plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, nuts and whole grains.
See your dentist regularly
Oral health translates to heart health. A study from Taiwan of more than 100,000 people showed that those who had their teeth professionally cleaned lowered their risk of heart attack by 24 percent and their risk of stroke by 13 percent compared with those who never had a dental cleaning.
Eat more fish
Eating one to two servings a week of fish high in omega-3 fatty acids (e.g., salmon) may help reduce the risk of heart disease.
If you don’t have time to get in the recommended 30-minute exercise session each day in one session, The American Heart Association recommends three 10-minute bouts of activity a day instead, which meets the fitness requirements of one half-hour session.