In honor of National Heart Month, we have assembled a list of 19 things you can do to decrease your risk for heart disease or stroke. Cardiac-related diseases remain the number one killer of both men and women in this country. Here are a few steps you can take to prevent it:
1. Step away from the salt shaker. Sodium and salt contribute to high blood pressure.
2. Take it easy on caffeine. Too much of it can leave you feeling stressed and anxious.
3. Get moving! Exercise is one of the best ways to manage your weight and lower the risk of heart disease.
4. Eat a healthy breakfast. Oatmeal is a great source of protein and fiber. It can help keep your cholesterol in check while also keeping you feeling full longer.
5. Drink green tea instead of coffee. Some experts believe the antioxidants in green tea help keep your arteries flexible and may help to prevent plaque from building up.
6. Eat sweets sparingly. This seems to be especially true for women. Elevated blood sugar levels in women have been linked to heart disease.
7. Follow the Dash Diet or a Mediterranean style approach to meals. These plant based programs are linked to lower incidence of heart disease.
8. Limit alcohol consumption. One glass of red wine a few days a week is best.
9. Substitute plant based stanol esters like Smart Balance or Benecol for butter and margarine.
10. Get your Zzzzs. Too little sleep often leads to bad choices such as fat-laden comfort foods or skipping exercise. The general recommendation is 7 – 9 hours of sleep each night.
11. Control stress. While you probably can’t eliminate stress from your daily life altogether, there are steps you can take to minimize it. A few ideas include walking, meditating or practicing yoga.
12. Laugh more! Enjoying a night out with friends or a comedy that makes you laugh out loud is good for your mental and physical health.
13. Get organized. Reducing clutter and organizing your life helps reduce stress and improve mental well-being.
14. Play some of your favorite tunes. Music has documented therapeutic benefits. It can lift your mood and improve positive feelings.
15. Kick the habit. Smoking is a leading cause of heart disease. One out of five heart related deaths in this country is linked to smoking.
16. Keep a daily gratitude journal. It will help you focus on the positive things in your life and decrease the feelings of negativity that are often linked to stress and depression.
17. Let it go. Holding on to grudges or anger can lead to high blood pressure and increase your risk for heart disease and stroke.
18. Have your cholesterol checked. Controlling cholesterol is an important factor in maintaining a healthy heart.
19. Find a hobby you enjoy. Give yourself time each week to relax and unwind. Some hobbies such as gardening or swimming also help to reduce stress.
To learn more about heart health, visit the American Heart Association’s Resource Center. They share information and resources on topics ranging from nutrition to stress management.