They say it’s the little things that matter in life. Little things like practicing important health habits boosting heart health adding up to a healthier you.
For the past ninety years, heart disease has been the leading cause of death in the U.S. Practically all of us have relatives who’ve suffered from a heart-related condition. Try as we might, this chronic disease seems to always have the upper hand in finding ways of invading our body. Whether it’s chronic high blood pressure or elevated cholesterol levels, heart disease is a silent yet stealth killer.
But it doesn’t have to be that way. There are steps taking you on a path to a much healthier heart. That’s because, in reality, you have the upper hand over heart disease. You actually have more control over your heart health than you realize. With just a few simple changes practiced long-term, you can help dismantle this disease to avoid becoming one more victim.
Here are small but mighty steps taking you on a path of at least slowing down or even beating heart disease back into submission:
Take a bite out of dark chocolate
Craving chocolate? Walk on by overly sugared chocolate treats and head straight for the dark stuff instead – look for dark chocolate with at least a 70% cacao content. But, keep the amount in moderation – a 1-ounce serving three times a week may lower cardiovascular risk and other heart-related diseases. Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, important for dilating blood vessels helping prevent arterial stiffness and plaque buildup.
Every 30 minutes get up and move
An interesting study from Scotland found that when comparing the heart disease risk of mail carriers to more sedentary office workers, the office workers had bigger waists and an increased risk for heart-related conditions. The solution? Get up and move around at least every 30 minutes. Why 30 minutes? The reason is that certain enzymes in the legs that break down cholesterol become inactive that could lead to the accumulation of ‘bad’ cholesterol in the future.
Eat more home-cooked meals
How many times a week do you eat at restaurants? If more than twice a week, it’s time to embrace home-cooked meals. Frequent stops at fast food or sit-down dining or grabbing a tall drink at Starbucks, do few favors to your health. For instance, fast-food meals often have more than 1,500 mg of sodium and sometimes exceed more than 2,000 mg. Calories, sodium, fat, and sugar content all add up quickly when eating out. That’s why cooking meals from scratch means you’re in control of what goes in your food and how it affects your health.
Fill up on fruits and vegetables
While it’s recommended to eat at least 5 servings of fruit a day, even just one extra serving each day can significantly impact heart health. A meta-analysis published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found for each additional 1-cup serving of fruits and vegetables, you may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease up to 13 percent. Hello, berries, leafy greens, and all other nutritious produce.
Pack in more potassium each day
One more nutrition-related step is to up your intake of the mineral potassium. Foods packed with potassium help counter the harmful effects of sodium raising blood pressure. When you consume more potassium, your body responds by excreting more sodium. The Dietary Guidelines recommend 4700 mg of potassium each day – most Americans only consume around 2,000 mg of potassium a day. Make it a point to eat potassium-rich food sources daily which include sweet potatoes, kiwi fruit, black beans, edamame, and of course, bananas.
Get more shut-eye
Most adults require between 7-8 hours of sleep each night. If you are someone clocking in only 5 hours or less of shut-eye, your heart may be aging faster than it should. A study published in the journal Sleep Health found that if you’re not well-rested, the benefits of other healthy lifestyles choices you may be doing – exercising, eating healthy, reducing stress – can be substantially diminished. Get a better night’s sleep by practicing good sleep hygiene techniques.
Mix up your workout
Exercise is a must for good heart health, but doing the same workout routine over and over won’t get you maximum heart health benefits. Instead, mix up your exercise routine for best results. Having a variety of workout routines – aerobic workouts, strength training workouts, and even flexibility routines like yoga – will do a better job of lowering blood pressure than always doing the same thing over and over. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that adding 20 minutes of weight training to a regular cardio workout three to four days a week, provided maximum blood pressure benefits.
Dr. David Samadi is the Director of Men’s Health and Urologic Oncology at St. Francis Hospital in Long Island. He’s a renowned and highly successful board-certified Urologic Oncologist Expert and Robotic Surgeon in New York City, regarded as one of the leading prostate surgeons in the U.S., with vast expertise in prostate cancer treatment and Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Prostatectomy. Dr. Samadi is a medical contributor to NewsMax TV and is also the author of The Ultimate MANual, Dr. Samadi’s Guide to Men’s Health and Wellness, available online both on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Visit Dr. Samadi’s websites at robotic oncology and prostate cancer 911.