(Natural News) Maintaining your physical health is the first step to keeping your heart strong. If you want to significantly lower your risk of developing heart disease, make positive lifestyle changes. Follow a nutritious diet and exercise regularly.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that about 630,000 people in the U.S. die because of heart disease annually. Various studies have also shown that heart disease affects individuals regardless of age and race. In fact, cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.
On the other hand, Dr. Elsa-Grace Giardina, a cardiologist and the director of the Center for Women’s Health in the Division of Cardiology at NewYork-Presbyterian (NYP)/Columbia University Irving Medical Cente (CUIMC), says that making certain changes in your daily life can improve your heart health.
Giardina notes that diet and physical activity — two crucial factors in maintaining a healthy heart — are easier to master than most people think. The important thing is to know how to debunk the various myths about diet and the link between food, physical activity, and the heart.
If you want to keep your heart healthy, here are eight important things to remember.
Nutrition is crucial to your cardiovascular health.
To improve your eating habits, try dividing your plate into three sections. Make sure each section has different colors but no white, which means no bread, pasta, potato, or rice.
Replace white foods with healthy, colorful foods like green, orange, red, or yellow peppers. Limit your intake of carbs and focus on lean meats and nutritious veggies.
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Eat foods in appropriate serving sizes.
Learn about proper portion sizes to manage your intake of different types of foods.
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the average adult should consume about:
- Eight or more servings of fruit and vegetable daily, or at least four-and-a-half cups of fruit and vegetables.
- A serving of protein that’s about the size of a deck of cards per meal.
- A serving of carbohydrates that’s about the size of a hockey puck per meal.
One example of a diet that’s great for heart health is the Mediterranean diet, which includes a lot of beans, fresh vegetables, leafy greens, and legumes; fresh fruits, nuts, and seeds; portions of chicken or fish; and heart-healthy olive oil.
The DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, which was designed to lower hypertension, is another heart-healthy diet. The DASH diet is similar to the Mediterranean diet because it includes lots of vegetables and protein but limited amounts of carbohydrates and starch.
Practice “mindful eating.”
Instead of eating on the go, dine. Mindful eating involves savoring each bite and getting rid of distractions like the TV.
When it’s time to eat, catch up with your family or your friends around the table instead of ignoring each other and focusing on your phones or the TV screen. Mindful eating also helps you enjoy meals, and paying attention to what you eat lets you know when you’re already full.
Prepare simple yet healthy meals.
It may seem tempting to resort to eating convenient yet unhealthy fast food, but eating nutritious meals doesn’t have to be expensive or labor-intensive.
If you have a small kitchen but limited time and a tight budget, preparing food on the weekends and learning how to make simple and nutritious meals can significantly boost your heart health.
Good heart health doesn’t have to be expensive.
Supplements can boost your nutrient intake, but if your budget doesn’t allow the regular purchase of vitamins and other supplements, eat more fruits and vegetables instead.
Exercising regularly is important and more manageable than you think.
Exercise can boost cardiovascular health, but you don’t have to slave away in the gym if you don’t have the stamina to do so. Instead of working out at the gym, you can simply walk for at least 30 minutes every day.
Tip: Walk home from work daily, or take a stroll around the block after dinner every night. (Related: Try “exercise snacks” (vigorous bouts of stairclimbing) to boost heart health, advise researchers.)
Good sleep quality is crucial for heart health.
Research suggests that poor sleep quality is linked to a greater risk of adverse cardiovascular risk factors like high blood pressure, obesity, Type 2 diabetes, and overall cardiovascular disease. Get enough sleep every night to maintain your physical and mental health.
To boost your heart health, follow a healthy diet, exercise for at least 30 minutes daily, and get seven to eight hours of sleep every night.