Top 10 Ways to have a Healthy Heart

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Unlike some diseases, which doctors have no clue how to prevent, heart disease is almost entirely avoidable. Even if you’ve already been diagnosed with a heart disease, you can significantly lower your risk of having an heart attack. You probably knew that. But exactly how do you go about it? Do you have to eliminate fat from your diet? (Definitely not.) How much exercise is enough? (Probably less than you think) Why bother changing your lifestyle at all when a pill can bring your cholesterol down and lower your blood pressure? You’ll discover answers to these questions and a dozen more in Top 10 Ways to have a Healthy Heart. Better still, you will find how to take small, easy steps that have been proven to lower the risk of dying from heart diseases. Remember, the condition is downright rare in certain parts of the world where people eat differently, exercise more and live with less stress. In other words, the health of your heart is in your hands.

10. Assessing your risk

Fifty years ago, the cause of most heart attacks was a mystery. No one really knew why they happened at all- let alone why they happened to some people and not others. Today, researchers are clued in to many of the factors that put people in the path of danger. Knowing exactly how you stack up in these areas will help you form a preventive strategy. Some points against you, like a family history of heart disease you simply have to swallow. But by disarming the hazards under your control, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol, you can slash your risk for a heart attack or stroke. Gender too is a key factor. Research shows men are at higher risk of getting a heart disease than women. Similarly, the risk increases with age too.

9. Kicking the habit

Smoking is bad for your body and your heart is no exception. The nasty habit can raise your blood pressure, narrow your blood vessels, wreak havoc on your ration of “good” cholesterol to “bad” cholesterol and put you at higher risk if blood clots that cause heart attacks and strokes. The good news: Even if you have been a long term smoker, you can substantially cut your risk of premature death by quitting today. Now, I know it’s not a magic spell, even people with a potential willpower fall to the mighty cause of quitting smoking and that’s understandable, it’s called addiction for a reason, remember? So don’t have unnecessarily large expectations from yourself. Begin with a plan. Try lowering down your cigarette count to five a day and then weekly cut down one cigarette from that number.  Thanks to the ever growing medical science there are options available for the chain smokers. Start with a nicotine gum or consult your doctor for what’s the best way for you!

8. Weighing In

Your heart may not be your first reason for wanting to lose weight, but perhaps it should be. Shedding even a few excess pounds can lower your cholesterol and blood pressure and dramatically reduce your risk of type II diabetes- significantly cutting your chance of having a heart attack or stroke. Of course, weight loss will also help you look better, feel better and have more energy.

7. Getting Physical

Figuratively speaking your heart is the wellspring of your emotions. But literally it’s a muscular organ, and muscles need regular workouts. If the only time you work up a sweat is when you worry, it’s high time to fill the exercise prescription. You don’t have to take up running or even join a gym- studies show that even moderately intense activities- like brisk walking and ballroom dancing-will help you live longer and stay healthier. Contrary to popular belief you don’t have to sweat it out for hours for it to be healthy infact extensive exercise can be fatal sometimes, so don’t push your capabilities and according to your current stamina work out a basic schedule. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, go for a brisk walk whenever you get a break. It’s these little things that add up to the healthy lifestyle.

Tips: Don’t overdo it. Gradually increase yourself into a new activity program. Make sure you have a good pair of comfortable sneakers. Drink 4 glasses of water before and after you exercise. Stretch before and after you exercise.

6. Eat smart.

Food lovers, rejoice! The old advice for eating heart smart has been replaced by a new message: Not all fat is bad for your heart. In fact, some of it, like that contained in olive oil and peanut oil, is actually good for you. The basics of a heart healthy diet aren’t complicated. And despite the highly publicized reversals, they are rock solid. They boil down to just five pieces of advice:

a.Replace saturated fat with unsaturated fat whenever you can.

b.Go easy on foods high in cholesterol

c.Eat 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

d. Help yourself to plenty of food made out of whole grains.

e. Keep calories under control.

5. The Rainbow connection

How colorful is your diet? If it’s bursting with greens, reds, yellows and oranges, chances are you are eating the recommended five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day. But most of us aren’t. And that’s too bad because these are filled with antioxidants- potent substances that fight cancer, head off hear diseases and protect against a variety of other chronic ailments.

Ten foods rick in Antioxidants: Spinach, Blueberries, Strawberries, Broccoli, Prunes, Tea, Grape juice, Cranberries, Brussels sprouts, Kale.

4. Five superstar foods for your heart.

Almost any food high in fiber, rick in antioxidants or low in saturated fat is good for your heart. But some foods offer special benefits. Here are five worth stocking up on.

Nuts: Studies show that eating nuts lowers heart disease risks. Besides being rick in unsaturated fat, nuts also help in relaxing constricted blood vessels and increase blood flow. They are also good sources of Vitamin E. But since they are high in calories, enjoy them in moderation especially if you are trying to lose weight.

Lentils: A single cup is packed with 16 grams of fiber- well over half the amount experts say we should be getting everyday.

Tea: Tea is steeped in variety of potent antioxidants that help protect arteries from damage. Tea also inhibits blood clotting which can lead to a heart attack or a stroke. Green tea contains more protective antioxidants than black tea.

Soy: Soy has been christened a miracle food for a number of ailments and diseases.

Avocados: Rick in monosaturated oil, they have more soluble fiber than any other fruit. It also contains a vital chemical which prevents the absorption of cholesterol by the large intestine.

3. Remember Pills never replace the need to make lifestyle changes.

Will all the hoopla over the latest cholesterol lowering drugs, it’s easy to wonder what ever happened to making lifestyle changes like getting more exercise and eating a healthy diet. Weren’t they supposed to rein in runaway cholesterol and keep blood pressure from going through the roof? Indeed, many experts worry that people today rely too much on pharmaceuticals and not enough on leading healthier lives. The truth is, keeping a healthy diet and getting plenty of exercise are still the best proven ways to reduce your chances of having a heart attack. Drugs that improve cholesterol or tame high blood pressure are only second line of defense, when lifestyle changes don’t work. But there’s plenty of evidence that they usually do.

2. Let the stress go.

Dozens of studies have shown that negative emotions such as anger or depression increase heart disease danger. People suffering from depression may be as much as four times more likely than other to have a heart attack. Heat attacks also occur more frequently in people coping with a divorce or separation. Anger and anxiety too seem to put a strain on the heart. Of course sometimes it’s impossible to weed out the root cause of your stress. That’s why it’s also important to develop some coping skills. Remember, it’s not a stressful situation but your reaction to it. Learn to relax yourself in crisis situations and adopt basic breathing techniques. The count to one to ten is still a life saver in some situations.

1. Have a good laugh

Laughter it’s said is the best medicine. In fact, being able to laugh at life’s stress could be an antidote to heart diseases. Research has shown that those with a ready laugh were less likely to have coronary heart diseases than those less apt to chuckle, the scientists found. Even among people with elevated blood cholesterol or blood pressure levels, the ability to laugh protected their hearts. If you can’t seem to make light of the things going on in your own life, try reading a comic novel or watching one of these movies: A fish called Wanda, The Princess Bride or Chicken Run.

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