February is not only the month of love and valentines, but it's also Heart Healthy Month. A time to remember your heart.
Did you know your heart beats an average of 108,000 times per day.....and pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood through your body? It does all of this quietly, day in and day out, without fail.
It’s a loyal organ; one you literally can’t live without.
It's time to show it some love. And to celebrate, I've listed 28 simple ways you can give back to your heart - by making it stronger, healthier and happier.
1. Laugh every day. Studies show that people who laugh less and view life pessimistically tend to have a greater risk for heart disease.
2. Take a brisk 30-minute walk. Not only is it simple exercise, but it lowers blood pressure and diabetes and heart disease risks.
3. Make a home-cooked meal. Eating at home puts you in control of what you eat, how much and the preparation – three keys to a healthy diet.
4. Order salad dressing on the side. Dressings are high in fat, salt and sugar; just one tablespoon adds almost 100 calories and 7 grams of fat to your healthy salad.
5. If you smoke, make today the day you quit.
6. Switch to skim milk. It has the same nutrition but without the fat and calories. Hard to switch? Start by mixing your milk with skim, gradually adding more skim each day.
7. Reach for water instead of soda. Americans drink more than 50 gallons of soda per year – something your body doesn’t need or want.
8. Switch to olive or canola oil for cooking instead of butter, shortenings, lard or margarine. This switch lowers “bad” cholesterol and raises the ‘good”, keeping arteries clear of cholesterol build-up.
9. Try roasted, unsalted nuts; eat a handful for a snack, or sprinkle them on yogurt, fruit or pancakes. You’ll reduce your risk for blood clots, and increase heart-healthy vitamin E and fiber.
10. Swap meat for fish. Cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, herring and sardines contain omega-3 fatty acids which lower “bad” fats in your blood.
11. Get your blood pressure checked regularly and keep track of it. Women who decrease their blood pressure can reduce their heart disease risk by 40%.
12. Check your cholesterol, LDL, HDL and triglycerides yearly – all key markers for heart disease.
13. Use fresh herbs, salt-free spices and citrus zests instead of salt when cooking. Too much salt raises blood pressure which increases the risk for heart disease and stroke.
14. Check the nutrition facts labels on packaged foods; ditch any with a sodium Daily Value of 20% or more; look for brands with 15% or less per serving.
15. Switch to a whole grain bread (“whole” should be first on the ingredient list). Whole grains are full of heart-healthy vitamins, minerals and fiber.
16. Dark chocolate. A one-ounce piece of pure dark chocolate contains flavanols, which can reduce inflammation (a marker for heart disease). Look for cocoa content of 70% or higher.
17. Get your gums and teeth examined. Gum disease doubles your risk of heart disease.
18. Eat dessert – sometimes. If you eat healthy most of the time, then allow yourself special treats now and again. With no guilt.
19. Rinse canned beans before eating. Canned beans are full of fiber and protein, but contain too much salt. By rinsing and draining, 50% of the sodium goes down the drain.
20. Select a new fruit or veggie to try every week to expand your taste buds.
21. Try the plate method. Fill the top half of your plate with sauce-free veggies, and the bottom half with a protein on one side, a grain on the other. You’ll automatically eat less and feel fuller.
22. Survey your pantry – trash packaged foods with “partially hydrogenated oils” in the ingredient list. These contain trans fats and spell trouble for your heart.
23. Eat a fruit or vegetable with every meal. Carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, papaya, cantaloupe, berries…the list is endless. And all are disease-fighting allies.
24. If you’re overweight, losing just 10% of your weight can lower blood pressure, reduce your risk for diabetes and lower cholesterol levels.
25. Take control of your diabetes. Uncontrolled diabetes greatly increases your risk for all kinds of diseases.
26. Sprinkle ground flaxseed on cereals, yogurt and salads – it helps keep blood cells from clumping to form clots. Buy pre-ground seeds or grind whole ones yourself with a coffee grinder.
27. Sleep well. Studies show getting 7 to 8 hours of quality sleep can reduce your risk of stroke, irregular heartbeats and heart attacks.
28. Call up a friend or family member. A strong network of friends and family can help you live a longer, healthier, happier life.