Want A Healthier Heart?
Here are easy ways to be good to your heart and yourself. Share this with someone you love and be good to their heart too. We hope this list will give you that nudge you need to continue heart-healthy living for months to come.
Tip #1: Attend a free screening
It is a great opportunity for you to get answers to your heart health questions from a heart expert.
Tip #2: Quit Smoking
Yes it’s hard. Quitting smoking is the biggest single thing you can do to improve your heart health.
Tip #3: Eat a handful of raw almonds every day
Not only are they nutritionally dense, raw almonds have been shown to reduce bad cholesterol and give your heart a healthy dose of vegetable protein, fiber, plant sterols and several other heart-healthy nutrients. It’s just one easy way to have a heart-healthy diet.
Tip #4: White meat only
Don’t order the burger. Leave the steaks in the freezer. Go with grilled chicken and fish. Red meat has been linked to higher levels of bad cholesterol, which can directly lead to heart disease. Plus, it generally has more fat than white meats, which means you aren’t doing your waistline any favors.
Tip #5: Exercise 2 minutes more every day
If you’re sitting, go for a walk. If you’re walking, walk a little faster. Maybe break into a light jog. Whatever. Every day, commit to getting just 2 more minutes of physical activity than you did the day before. We’re no math wizards, but by the end of the month, well, you should really be moving.
Tip #6: Lay off the salt
Our brains are hard-wired to seek fatty and salty foods—and the food industry has responded. The American diet is overloaded with sodium, which can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease—all kinds of badness. Try not to reach for the salt shaker. And take a look at the nutrition information on the foods you buy. Chances are, the amount of “hidden” sodium in your diet will surprise you.
Tip #7: Know your BMI
Your body mass index (BMI) is a good way to know—in a general way— if your weight is considered healthy. It’s not the last word on a healthy heart—it’s the first. Calculate your BMI now.
Tip #8: A good rule of fist
Control your diet by controlling your portion sizes. Generally speaking, keep your portions smaller than the size of your fist. Two exceptions: meat, go smaller—about the size of a deck of cards. And raw fruits and veggies? Go crazy. Eat as much as you want.
Tip #9: Add 30 minutes more of sleep a night each week
Studies show that we our one sleep-deprived nation. In addition to knocking down our collective IQ, lack of sleep also increases stress—which can contribute to heart disease. Assuming you’re not currently getting 8 hours of sleep a night, try adding an additional half-hour of sleep to your night, and see how it affects your day. Then next week, add 30 minutes more. You’ll feel like a new person.
Tip #10: With fat, go with the good
Fats are essential to a healthy system. Trouble is, the average diet has enough fat for a family of six. When you’re cooking, go with healthier fats, like olive or canola oils, as your main “go to” fats. Try nixing butter, vegetable oil or shortening.
Tip #11: Stay hydrated
If you’re like most people, you’ll find that if you keep a cup of water nearby, you’ll keep drinking. That’s because your body naturally craves water—way more than the average person actually drinks. A good rule of thumb is “8 x 8”—eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day.
Tip #12: Get a cardiologist
If you’re over 40, it’s time to start kicking your heart health up a notch. Your doctor can recommend a cardiologist who will work with you to ensure your heart is as healthy as it can be.
Tip #13: Make a game of it
Play is important. Really important. Active recreation not only relieves stress (which can lower your blood pressure), it also boosts your metabolism (which burns calories), improves your cardiovascular health and helps you sleep better. It’s a win-win-win-win!
Tip #14: Get a new cookbook
Give yourself permission to go off the script and try some new flavors. You’ll be amazed at how a new recipe can jazz up a weeknight meal.
Tip #15: Go back for the future
How well do you know your family’s health history? You should, because therein lie clues to your future heart health. Use this month as an excuse to engage your parents and relatives—even your weird Uncle Carl. Usually, getting relatives to talk about their health isn’t a problem—it’s getting them to stop that’s the trick.
Tip #16: Get heart attack smart
When it comes to surviving a heart attack, response time drastically improves your odds. Know the signs of a heart attack, both for you and for the people you love, so you can respond quickly and call for help. Chest discomfort; pain in the arm, back, jaws or stomach; shortness of breath—these are the biggies. But there are other symptoms that may come into play.
Tip #17: Learn CPR
Would you know what to do if someone around you suddenly went into cardiac arrest? The American Heart Association would LOVE to show you how to properly administer CPR.
Tip #18: Know your numbers
Do you know what your blood pressure is? How about your LDL? HDL? Triglycerides? Knowing these everyday numbers provides a great baseline for you and your doctor to monitor to make sure you’re heart is healthy.
Tip #19: Take care of your teeth
Odd but true—research indicates a link between heart health and dental health. People with deteriorating teeth are much more likely to experience heart disease. How about we try flossing?
Tip #20: Change your restaurant habits
For a lot of people, going out to eat is a chance to splurge. Use your meals out as a chance to order off the “fit” side of the menu.
Tip #21: Get up earlier
Try waking up 15 minutes earlier each day. Use that time to meditate, read, reflect, exercise—whatever. It’s your time. You’ll find that you’ll be less stressed, more mentally acute and sleep better at night. Add 15 minutes each week.
Tip #22: Get a pet
From lowering your blood pressure while watching fish swim in an aquarium to getting your heart pumping while walking Mojo the dog, studies have proved the link between pet ownership and heart health.
Tip #23: Get a physical
Once a year, make an appointment with your doctor for a full physical. Write down your concerns ahead of time—most people are much more likely to gloss over symptoms on the spot.
Tip #24: Go easy on the caffeine
Try limiting yourself to one cup of coffee a day. And no fair picking one of those giant 32 ounce mugs, either. If you’re craving a hot beverage throughout the day, try green- or black tea.
Tip #25: Upgrade your snacks
Have you ever noticed that if something is nearby, most of us will eat it? Use this same logic to your advantage. Instead of walking to the vending machine for a shrink-wrapped bag of nonsense, arm yourself with healthy, munchy snacks. Sliced apples, pea pods, carrot sticks—they’re healthy, bite-sized, tasty and easy to eat.
Tip #26: Reward yourself differently
Ever notice how we often reward good behavior with bad? Come up with some rewards for yourself that don’t involve over-eating, over-drinking or, well, over-anything. Set goals, and set your rewards in advance.
Tip #27: Call in reinforcements
Need some accountability in your life? Get someone else involved. Your spouse might be your first thought, but a friend or acquaintance might be just as effective. The point is, if you’re trying to change some behaviors, there is strength in numbers.
Tip #28: Change your routines
Take a different route to work. Sit in a different chair. Volunteer somewhere. Give yourself permission to break out of the norm. Change is a mental state first, so toss out your old normal and see what happens.
Tip #29: How about a hug?
We all know a hug feels good, but what's the connection between hugs and heart health? Human contact through hugs lowers blood pressure and reduces stress, which cuts the risk of heart disease. Hugs have also been shown to improve overall mood, increase nerve activity, and a host of other beneficial effects. Positive physical touch has an immediate anti-stress effect, slowing breathing and heart rate.