Without your health you’ve got nothing which is why it’s imperative that we take good care of ourselves. Like my husbands grandma always says, “If you don’t take care of your body, where else are you going to live?”
Having just gone through a heart trauma, I’ve been adamant about educating myself on heart disease, heart function and heart care. Our reality is that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Heart attacks occur for different reasons – family history, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, age, drug, etc. – and the best thing we can do for ourselves is try to lower the risk.
Here are eight diet habits for a healthy heart:
1. No smoking. Period the end.
2. Exercise. Daily physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol (the “good” cholesterol), strengthens your heart, can lower blood pressure, burns off stress, boosts your mood and helps you sleep better.
3. Follow the mediterranean diet. Eat primarily plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables (and A LOT of them), whole grains, legumes and nuts. If you can avoid meat all together you are better off.
4. Opt for low fat protein sources. Lean meat, poultry and fish and low-fat dairy products are some of the best sources of protein. But be careful to choose lower fat options, such as skim milk rather than whole milk and skinless chicken breasts rather than fried chicken patties. Fish is another good alternative to high-fat meats. And certain types of fish are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower blood fats called triglycerides. You’ll find the highest amounts of omega-3 fatty acids in cold-water fish, such as salmon, mackerel and herring. Legumes — beans, peas and lentils — also are good sources of protein and contain less fat and no cholesterol, making them good substitutes for meat.
5. Eat foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids don’t affect LDL cholesterol. They have other heart benefits, such as helping to increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL, or “good”) cholesterol, reducing your triglycerides, a type of fat in your blood, and reducing blood pressure. Again, salmon, mackerel and herring are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include walnuts, almonds and ground flaxseeds.
6. Eliminate trans fats. Trans fats affect cholesterol levels by increasing the “bad” cholesterol and lowering the “good” cholesterol. This bad combination increases the risk of heart attacks. Trans fats can be found in fried foods and many commercial products, such as cookies, crackers and snack cakes. But don’t rely on packages that are labeled “trans fat-free.” In the United States, if a food contains less than 0.5 grams of trans fat in a serving, it can be labeled “trans fat-free.”
7. Increase soluble fiber. There are two types of fiber — soluble and insoluble. Both have heart-health benefits, but soluble fiber also helps lower your LDL levels. You can add soluble fiber to your diet by eating oats and oat bran, fruits, beans, lentils, and vegetables.
8. Reduce sodium. Eating a lot of sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Reducing sodium is an important part of a heart-healthy diet. The Department of Health and Human Services recommends that healthy adults have no more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day (about a teaspoon of salt). Use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods.