Cardiovascular disease can take years to develop, the result of many bad habits that prove toxic over time. On the other hand, good habits can provide a lifetime of benefits.
Heart disease is one of the main killers of modern civilization. We sit too long, then move too fast. Eat too little of the right stuff and gorge on too much of the wrong stuff. We may consume tobacco, alcohol, or one or more of the host of other drugs that promise instant relief from the stresses of our daily lives. And, yes, stress takes a toll all by itself.
Most people who focus on heart health do it years too late—after heart disease has set in and they have already paid the price, which could include heart attack and stroke, or their dangerous cousin, diabetes. It’s the lucky few who learned good health habits growing up—and stuck with them.
Many of these habits are so simple they can easily be discounted. But taken together, they offer protection from the common scourges of modern life.
Do your own personal habit-check. The following 10 simple health habits are recommended by Healthbeat, the Harvard Medical School newsletter. How many do you follow?
Top 10 Heart Health Habits
1. Take a 10-minute walk. If you don’t exercise at all, a brief walk is a great way to start. If you do, it’s a good way to add more exercise to your day.
2. Give yourself a lift. Lifting a hardcover book or a two-pound weight a few times a day can help tone your arm muscles. When that becomes a breeze, move on to heavier items or join a gym.
3. Eat one extra fruit or vegetable a day. Fruits and vegetables are inexpensive, taste good, and are good for everything from your brain to your bowels.
4. Make breakfast count. Start the day with some fruit and a serving of whole grains, like oatmeal, bran flakes, or whole-wheat toast.
5. Stop drinking your calories.
Cutting out just one sugar-sweetened soda or calorie-laden latte can easily save you 100 or more calories a day. Over a year, that can translate into a 10-pound weight loss.
6. Have a handful of nuts. Walnuts, almonds, peanuts, and other nuts are good for your heart—in moderation. Try grabbing some instead of chips
or cookies when you need a snack, adding them to salads for a healthful and tasty crunch, or using them in place of meat in pasta and other dishes.
7. Sample the fruits of the sea. Eat fish or other types of seafood instead of red meat once a week. It’s good for the heart, the brain, and the waistline.
8. Breathe deeply. Try breathing slowly and deeply for a few minutes a day. It can help you relax. Slow, deep breathing may also help lower blood pressure.
9. Wash your hands often. Scrubbing up with soap and water often during the day is a great way to protect your heart and health. The flu, pneumonia, and other infections can be very hard on the heart.
10. Count your blessings. Taking a moment each day to acknowledge the blessings in your life is one way to start tapping into other positive emotions. These have been linked with better health, longer life, and greater well-being, just as their opposites—chronic anger, worry, and hostility—contribute to high blood pressure and heart disease.
A little extra
Besides exercise, diet, mindset and hygiene, some nutritional supplements may help decrease your risk of developing heart disease. According to the Healthline newsletter: CoenzymeQ10 (CoQ10, or ubiquinone) helps a cell’s ability to extract energy from food. One study shows that taking CoQ10 supplements reduces oxidative stress and increases antioxidant enzyme activity, relieving symptoms of cardiovascular disease. The more bioavailable form Ubiquinol offers better absorption into your bloodstream.
Omega-3 fatty acids help reduce inflammation caused by atherosclerosis. They also lower levels of triglycerides, fatty blood components that block your arteries. Consumption of omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in fish and flax seeds, is linked to lower blood pressure, better blood lipid profiles, including lower triglycerides, and reduced risk of death from heart disease.
One of the chief components of green tea, the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), is known for its ability to protect the heart. Antioxidant chemicals in pomegranate fruit and juice may help reverse atherosclerosis and lower blood pressure.
Taking magnesium supplements may reduce blood pressure. Substituting magnesium and potassium salts for table salt can actually lower blood pressure.
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Disclaimer: No content should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified healthcare professional.
Author: Alexa Hurst is a staff writer for HUM@Nmedia, the parent brand for Optimyz Magazine.