Health

7 Daily Habits for a Healthier Heart

Strong Healthy Heart Illustration

While cancer deaths tend to get more attention, heart disease is still the leading cause of premature death in the United States, and it’s a health problem that affects both men and women. The good news is that you can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) by modifying your lifestyle habits. Let’s look at some simple habits that can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease or heart attack.

Eat fish twice a week

Fish is an excellent source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and many vitamins and minerals. According to the Mayo Clinic, “Eating at least two servings of fish a week could reduce the risk of heart disease.” They recommend consuming fatty fish, like wild-caught salmon, twice per week. However, it’s important to avoid fish high in mercury: swordfish; shark; king mackerel; tilefish (golden bass); bigeye tuna; marlin; orange roughy; and bluefish.

Limit saturated fats and trans fats

Saturated fats are found in animal products, including red meat and dairy, while trans fats are man-made fats created when manufacturers add hydrogen to vegetable oil. Both saturated fats and trans fats raise the risk of heart disease and stroke by altering blood lipid levels.

To limit your intake of saturated fat:

  • Reduce the amount of meat you eat. Choose lean cuts (such as trimmed chicken breasts) or remove visible fat from meats before cooking them. Opt for fish instead of red meat at least twice a week.
  • Replace some of the meat in your diet with plant-based alternatives.
  • Avoid processed meat like sausage, bacon, and lunchmeat

Trans fats are found naturally in some foods, such as meat and dairy products, but also in some processed foods. Trans fats, also known as partially hydrogenated oils, raise the amount of “bad” LDL cholesterol in your blood while lowering amounts of “good” HDL cholesterol. Trans fat also increases inflammation in blood vessels, thereby contributing to the hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis).

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned trans-fat in foods in 2018, some still contain small quantities. Read the label on packaged foods. If you see partially hydrogenated oil on the ingredient list, the product contains small quantities of trans-fat, and it’s best to avoid it.

Choose healthy monounsaturated fats

Monounsaturated fats are abundant in olive oil, canola oil, peanut oil, and avocados. These fats reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol levels and increase “good” HDL cholesterol levels. They’re considered “good” fats because they help lower the risk of heart disease.

Monounsaturated fats help promote a healthy heart by reducing bad LDL cholesterol levels and increasing good HDL cholesterol levels. Some, like extra-virgin olive oil, also contain anti-inflammatory compounds that reduce blood vessel inflammation, a contributor to heart disease. Substitute monounsaturated for saturated fat in your diet. For example, use extra-virgin olive oil in place of butter.

Choose whole grains over refined grains

Whole grains are an excellent source of fiber and can help you feel full for longer. They’re also good sources of B vitamins, important for energy metabolism and heart health. Avoid refined grains, like white bread and white flour. To make refined grains, manufacturers strip whole grains of their fiber and nutrients. The lack of fiber leads to blood sugar spikes that aren’t healthy for your heart.

The soluble fiber in whole grain foods also lowers cholesterol by binding to bile acids and carrying them out of the body before they are absorbed into the bloodstream. Avoid packaged foods that are processed and contain added sugar and salt. The American Heart Association recommends that most adults get no more than 2,300 milligrams per day (that’s about 1 teaspoon).

Eat foods rich in potassium and magnesium

Potassium and magnesium are essential minerals for heart health. Potassium is abundant in fruits and vegetables, and whole grains, nuts, and seeds are rich sources of magnesium. Potassium can lower blood pressure by reducing the stress on your arteries caused by sodium (salt). Magnesium has many benefits for heart health. It helps maintain healthy blood pressure and reduces insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Plus, magnesium is important for maintaining a healthy heart rhythm.

Talk to your doctor if you have reduced kidney function or take a potassium-sparing diuretic for high blood pressure. They may advise against consuming lots of potassium in this case.

Maintain a healthy weight and waist size

Staying a healthy weight is important to your health, but also maintaining a healthy waist size. The body mass index (BMI) is used to estimate whether someone has an ideal weight and height ratio. However, it doesn’t account for muscle mass or fat in the abdominal area, which has a stronger effect on heart disease than BMI.

Don’t just weigh yourself, also measure your waist size and keep tabs on it. Research shows that having a waist size of 40 inches or greater for men and 35 inches and over for women is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Exercise most days of the week

One of the best ways to improve your heart health is to exercise regularly. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking or cycling) on most days of the week. If you are new to exercising, start slowly and gradually increase the length and duration of your workouts. You can start with as little as 10 minutes of aerobic exercise daily and gradually build up to a higher intensity and duration. Aerobic exercise helps develop stamina, too.

Do more “incidental” movements. Get up and walk around and stretch, so you aren’t sitting for longer than 30 minutes at a time. Prolonged sitting reduces insulin sensitivity and affects blood lipids in a way that’s harmful to cardiovascular health.

Conclusion

Hopefully, these tips will help you live a healthier, happier life and avoid cardiovascular disease. Remember that it’s never too late to take control of your health — even if you’re already at risk for heart disease.

References:

  1. “Omega-3 in fish: How eating fish helps your heart – Mayo Clinic.” 19 Apr. 2022, mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/omega-3/art-20045614.
  2. “How Potassium Can Help Control High Blood Pressure | American Heart ….” heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/changes-you-can-make-to-manage-high-blood-pressure/how-potassium-can-help-control-high-blood-pressure.
  3. “Your Waist Size Is a Clue to Your Heart Disease Risk – Healthline.” 22 Apr. 2021, healthline.com/health-news/your-waist-size-is-a-clue-to-your-heart-disease-risk.
  4. “Dietary saturated fat and heart disease: a narrative review” by Jeffery L Heileson, 16 December 2019, Nutrition Reviews.
    DOI: 10.1093/nutrit/nuz091

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  • Luv info about the body very interesting how food can and cannot effect the body!one of my most curious subjects! Most people take better care of their cars then their body! Thanks …good article!

  • This article is part of the ongoing tragedy with the health of the western world. You folks need to do better research! Your perpetuation of the lie about saturated fat is in direct contradiction to the article published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology 2 years ago. Dietary cholesterol plays an almost insignificant role in cardiovascular disease at the worst. Aside from the fraudulent science behind this misinformation, the real culprit in the ongoing heart disease epidemic is disguised and ignored. Refined dietary carbohydrates with the concurrent elevated blood glucose levels, elevated insulin and insulin resistance resulting in metabolic disorders, obesity, prediabetes and diabetes. Fat does not make us fat! See DOI:
    10.1016/j.jacc.2020.05.077
    To those unfamiliar with the Journal of the American College of Cardiology; it is not a supermarket checkout tabloid! The above referenced article represents a meta-analysis done by a collection of carefully chosen experts. In addition, it should be pointed out that the temporary destruction of the glycocalyx, which are the first line of defense in the arterial wall, is caused by high blood glucose levels. This phenomenal has been well documented in multiple research documents and in electron micrographs for decades. Anyone interested in the historical details of this destructive scientific fraud, should read Nina Teicholz's The Big
    Fat Surprise, or Gary Taubes' Good Calories Bad Calories. These unsettling historical and scientific facts are commonly ignored in lieu of the comfort of established dogma.

  • We in this society are overloading our diets with these horrible pseudo-foods that contain nothing but processed carbs, artificial colors and flavors, and preservatives. Now that inflation has taken hold, those of us living and trying to raise kids at the very bottom of society are practically forced to purchase nothing but this awful junk. I'd love to give my children salmon twice a week, but I can't even afford store brand fish sticks anymore. I don't worry about the saturated fat in red meat because I don't recall the last time I was able to purchase meat for them that wasn't ground. Like I could even consider plant-based burgers!?

    I worry about the ridiculous amounts of carbohydrates and corn syrup and dyes and hormone additives and chemical preservatives we have to consume. I feel like our entire bodies would be better off if America was willing to make food that was closer to actual food, and make it available to everyone. Poor people should be able to eat well, too.

    Heart disease is the number one killer, and so many studies have shown that you're at a far greater risk if you're a person of color, female or in a "marginalized" community (so.. poor). If you could see what we're forced to eat because we can't afford anything else, you'd understand why that is. Instead of turning inward and focusing on how you can make things better for you, more people need to look outside of their own little bubble and focus on making things better overall.

    Then again.. that's a lot to ask.

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SciTechDaily.com

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