12 Tips for Better Heart Health

1.     Know your heart numbers

  • Establish a baseline to help plan every preventative step for the rest of the year.
  • Know your HDL or “good” cholesterol, LDL or “bad” cholesterol, total cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, weight, and body mass index (BMI) numbers.
  • And make an appointment now for next February to see if your new healthy habits are making the grade.

2.     Target your triglycerides

Your goal should be 150 or lower.  Triglycerides are a better marker for high risk of diabetes and heart disease.  They are also much more responsive to lifestyle changes that other types of blood fats.  Triglycerides can drop 30% to 50% just by reducing your intake of saturated fats and by reducing your weight.

3.     Be a nut about heart health

Your heart is passionate for walnuts – six walnuts before lunch and dinner daily to be exact.  Walnuts are rich in omega-3 fatty acids which help to decrease inflammation in the arteries surrounding your heart, so they keep your heart functioning longer and better.  Walnuts also help you feel fuller faster and that means you will ultimately eat less.

You might want to try eating pistachios too.  A recent study showed that a serving or two of the pistachios each day might help to reduce the levels of LDL, but mind the calories as a cup of pistachio nuts contains about 700 calories.

4.     De-stress your heart

Unplug!  Unplug yourself from the news cycle, your email and your PDA.  Unplug and turn off to reduce your stress.  Stress has a nasty habit of raising blood pressure, heart rate, and the levels of the stress hormone cortisol.

5.     Get heart healthy social support

You know that exercise improves heart health by keeping weight down and raising levels of HDL, but exercising with a friend has added benefits. Social support helps to lower your risk of heart disease and helps you stay motivated.  In fact, being married and having a strong social network may help protect against heart disease according to a study of nearly 15,000 men and women.  It turns out that people who have a spouse, go to church, join social clubs, and have a lot of friends and relatives have significantly lower blood pressure and other heart disease risk factors.

6.     Volunteer to fight heart disease

People who volunteer tend to live longer than people who don’t.  This may be attributed to social connectivity.  So, find a charity that means something to you and donate your time.

7.     Take a heart-felt approach to quitting smoking

Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease, but kicking the habit is much easier said than done.  Check with a doctor that can help you establish a plan to quit.  There are new therapies available that your doctor will also know about.  As a matter of fact, the benefits to your heart health begin within minutes of quitting.  The benefits continue to grow; after one year, your risk is cut in half and after ten years of not smoking your heart disease risk is the same as someone who has never smoked.

Second hand smoke counts too.  A recent study found that women exposed to second hand smoke increased their risk of heart attacks by 69%, strokes by 59% and peripheral artery disease (PAD) by 67%, when compared to women who did not hang around smokers.  Clogged arteries in the legs, abdomen, pelvis, arms, and neck have been linked to PAD.

8.     Drink a little alcohol a day to keep heart disease away

Women can reduce their risk of heart disease by consuming up to one glass of alcohol daily and men, by consuming up to two glasses.  Alcohol may help the heart by increasing the levels of HDL cholesterol.  But it is important to realize that more is not better.  Alcohol also has calories.  Consuming too much alcohol can also raise your blood pressure, worsen heart failure, and cause abnormal heart rhythms.

9.     Strengthen your heart with weight training

Benefits of strength training include lower body fat percentage, reduced body weight, and increased muscle mass that increase your metabolism, and increased endurance for aerobic exercise.  Train with weights two to three days a week.  You will find that as your aerobic capacity increases through strength training, your HDL levels will also increase.

10.   Measure your waist size to gauge your heart health

If your waist measures more than 35 inches in women or more than 40 inches in men, you are at increased risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  The best way to reduce the middle is to get serious about being more active and reducing simple sugar and white-floured foods in your diet.

11.    Reduce your blood pressure by reducing your salt

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and reducing salt intake can help lower blood pressure.  Try cooking with herbs instead of salt.  Make sure you read food labels to see how much salt is in prepared foods.  Try to aim for less than 2.3 grams of salt per day – that’s about a teaspoon.  When dining out, ask for sauces and salad dressings on the side because restaurant food tends to be heavily salted.

12.    Sleep to your heart’s content

People who sleep fewer than 7 hours a night have higher blood pressure and higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol.  The latest research shows that people who do not get enough sleep are more than twice as likely as others to die of heart disease.  Try to avoid caffeine after noon and develop a stress-free wind-down ritual before bed – try taking a bath and don’t pay your bills just before you go to bed.


SOURCE:  WebMD.com – article link: www.webmd.com/heart/features/12-tips-for-better-heart-health?ecd=wnl_hrt_020309