Heart Health Month -- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease remains the leading cause of death for both men and women. Fortunately, simple measures taken as part of a healthy lifestyle can reduce the numbers significantly. Regular exercise, especially aerobic, has a ripple effect of compounding benefits, for example, strengthening your cardiovascular system, improving circulation, reducing body fat, and lowering stress. Here are five heart-healthy eating and active living habits, and simple tips to build them into everyday living:
1. Walk more often. One of the most accessible and best overall forms of exercise, studies show brisk walking on a regular schedule can improve efficient oxygen consumption during periods of exertion, lower resting heart rate, reduce blood pressure, and improve heart and lunch efficiency. Make it social. Arrange walks with friends as part of a regular social routine. Walk to confer with colleagues at work instead of e-mailing. If you have extra break time, get outside for a brisk walk and enjoy some fresh air. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park further away from your destination.
2. Be mindful of nutrition. We all know the truth in we are what we eat. Just as certain foods can increase risk of heart disease, so can food and eating habits help ward off disease and promote health. Eat breakfast. Research shows that those who eat their morning meal take in more wholesome nutrients, and less fat and cholesterol throughout the day, making a positive difference in overall weight and cholesterol levels. When cooking, use fats sparingly. Swap out margarine and shortening for heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, such as olive and canola oils; or polyunsaturated fats from nuts and seeds. The American Heart Association recommends avoiding trans fats as much as possible. A quick clue for spotting trans fats is anything with the phrase "partially hydrogenated". Get in your omega-3s: swap a red meat meal for fish. Fatty fish like salmon, trout, and sardines are great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, shown to decrease risk of heart disease and help to lower blood pressure. Reduce sodium. Sodium can contribute to high blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease. Purchase no-salt-added canned goods, and cut back on seasoning with salts in favor of a variety of spices.
3. Keep hydrated.
4. Reduce stress.
5. Be positive, and find the fun.