You don’t have to spend a lot of money or take medication to maintain a healthy heart, just follow these guidelines:
- Quit smoking. Smoking causes high blood pressure, decreases exercise tolerance, increases blood clotting, and double the odds of a heart attack.
- If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. Alcohol can increase the blood pressure and in higher doses can significantly weaken heart muscle.
- Exercise the heart as much as you would do for any other muscle to help strengthen it and keep it healthy. 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise, such as brisk walking five days a week, or 20 minutes of vigorous activity, such as jogging three days a week. Try to make your exercise enjoyable (bring a friend or listen to music) and be persistent.
- Eat plenty of fiber such as fruits, nuts, whole grains and vegetables. Avoid saturated fats such as those found in most meats, chicken skin and many dairy products. Instead, eat good fats such as olive oil, nuts, avocados and olives.
- Maintain a normal blood pressure. High blood pressure increases the work load on the heart and eventually will cause it to become thicker, stiffer and weaker. This can lead to heart attacks and heart failure.
- Maintain as normal a weight as possible. As with hypertension, excess weight also increases the workload of the heart leading to the same end result of heart damage. Recent research shows that people who carry most of their weight around their middle (apple shaped as opposed to pear shaped), are at an even greater risk of heart disease.
- Controlling diabetes is important because up to three quarters of people with diabetes will die of some form of heart disease.
- Keep calm. Stress triggers the release of certain hormones that have an adverse effect on the heart muscle. Studies have shown that clam and happy people have fewer heart attacks than those who are angry and discontent. “Don’t worry – be happy”.
- Avoid salt as much as possible especially if you have high blood pressure. The recommended daily limit of salt is 2,300 mg. (one teaspoon). Try to avoid processed food and read food labels to steer clear of the worst offenders.
- Maintain levels of vitamin D. Research shows that people with low levels of vitamin D were twice as likely to have a heart attack as those who have adequate levels. The new 2010 recommended daily allowance (RDA) is 600 IU for those 1-70 years of age, and pregnant or breastfeeding women, and 800 IU for those over 71 years of age.
The above guidelines are tried and true methods of significantly improving your odds of decreasing heart disease and thereby promoting a healthier, happier, and longer life.