10 Easy Tips for a Healthier Heart
Simple Heart-Smart Tips to Reduce the Deadly Risk of Heart Disease
Congratulations! If you’ve decided today to take better care of your heart health and reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and heart disease, you’ve made an important decision that thousands tragically fail to make until it’s too late.
Every year, about 735,000 Americans have a heart attack. More than 47% of sudden cardiac deaths (or, over 345,000 fatal heart attacks) happen outside a hospital, suggesting many people with unhealthy hearts wait too long before acting on the early warning signs of heart attack, which include:
- chest pain
- upper body pain or discomfort in the arms, back, neck, jaw or upper stomach
- shortness of breath
- nausea, lightheadedness or cold sweats
As the leading cause of death for men and women worldwide, heart disease claims the lives of over 600,000 Americans every year.
To put this in perspective: That’s 1 in every 4 deaths.
However, you’ve made a smart decision to take care of your heart health before you become just another statistic. So let’s get you started.
Here are 10 easy tips you can use today to improve and maintain optimal heart health.
IMPORTANT MEDICAL NOTE: If you’re taking prescription statin drugs to manage cholesterol and you’re experiencing weakness and fatigue, make sure you read Tip #9. Your doctor may not have told you that statins can rob you of a vital heart-health nutrient.
Lose Those Love Handles
Getting rid of your love handles won’t just make you look and feel healthier and more attractive. Burning away belly fat improves heart health.
According to new research by the American College of Cardiology, the more unwanted weight you have around your middle, the greater your risk of heart disease. In fact, studies show that people who carry excess weight around their middle tend to be at higher risk of heart disease than people who have excess fat elsewhere.
And here’s the part that may shock you: It’s NOT Just About Your Waist Size.
Just because you can still get into those slim-fitting jeans doesn’t mean you’re at lower risk of heart disease. In the American College of Cardiology study, researchers measured two types of abdominal fat:
- fat just under the skin (or, the kind that commonly bulges waistlines)
- fat inside the abdominal cavity (or, the kind that’s harder to see)
Following up six years later, researchers found that people with more abdominal-cavity fat had a high risk of heart disease.
Fortunately, any exercise to reduce visible belly flab can also reduce deeper abdominal fat, and you don’t need an expensive gym membership to get started.
According to Harvard Health Publications, you can reduce both visible and deep abdominal fat with 30-60 minutes of moderately intense daily cardio exercise:
- riding a bike
- jumping rope
Looking for something easier and more fun? You’ll enjoy our next tip.
Shake Your Tail Feather!
Dancing isn’t just fun. It’s great for heart health!
In recent studies published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, researchers surveyed 48,390 adults across the United Kingdom about their dancing and walking habits. All survey participants were age 40 or older and had no history of heart disease.
In a follow-up survey some 10 years later, researchers found that regular, modest-intensity dancing was associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
Researchers also found that dancing offered more heart-healthy benefits than walking, since dancing is a multidimensional cardio activity that includes social connection and other psychosocial elements that are good for health.
Whether you’re a ballroom dancer, a salsa dancer or prefer your own style, the key to heart-healthy dancing is to get your heart rate up. However, if you have a history of heart disease, check with your doctor to ensure the increased heart rate of dancing is not too strenuous for your body.
If you’re someone who needs a few martinis of confidence before heading to the dance floor, having more than three drinks in one sitting can increase your blood pressure. This causes your heart to work harder, slowly weakening it and increasing your risk of stroke and heart failure.
If you’re planning on making dancing a regular part of your heart-healthy lifestyle, the American Heart Association recommends an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
Ditch the “Fizzy” Medicines
If you’re in the habit of taking effervescent painkillers, vitamin supplements or other common medicines that “fizz” when dissolved in water, you’re running an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
In a study published in the British Medical Journal, researchers tracked 1.2 million people over 23 years and compared those taking effervescent medicines with those taking non-effervescent versions of the same medicines. At the end of the study, researchers found that effervescent medicines caused a 16% higher risk of heart problems and stroke.
The reason comes down to salt, which drives up blood pressure.
In small amounts, salt is an important part of good health.
However, fizzy medicines are loaded with salts that exceed the daily recommended limits for salt and, over time, increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.
And it’s not just fizzy medicines that drop like salt bombs in your body. Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs (both generic and name brand) present an increased risk of heart failure because of high salt content.
The trouble is, you might not see that salt bomb coming. While reading labels is always a wise idea to control your daily salt intake, it’s no guarantee against increased risk of heart attack because pharmaceutical companies (unlike food companies) are not under the same obligations with regard to salt content or product labelling.
For better defense: If you’re currently taking drugs for better heart health, speak with your pharmacist or doctor and ask about an all-natural solution for better heart health that doesn’t contain salt. And if you’re using fizzy meds, you should stop using them.
Whether you love hazelnuts, cashews or eating peanuts from the shell, all nuts offer heart-healthy benefits when combined with a sensible overall diet.
Loaded with protein, vitamins and minerals, nuts are a nutrient-dense food that helps lower cholesterol, and reduce the risk of heart disease and hypertension because they’re loaded with healthy unsaturated fats. According to recent studies, daily nut consumption can lower your risk of heart disease by as much as 30%.
Studies have also connected nut consumption to reduced incidence of gallstones in both genders and reduced rates of diabetes in women.
Despite the many health benefits of nuts, many people avoid them from a fear of gaining weight. Yet unsaturated nut fats are not the same as cholesterol-causing saturated fats (found naturally in animal-based foods) and trans-fats (artificial fats found in packaged and convenience foods). Studies published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition show that nuts do not lead to greater weight gain and, in fact, may help to control weight.
The key to making nuts work for your heart and overall health is to avoid nuts that have been cooked in oils or coated in sugar, which can cancel out the heart-health benefits and cause weight gain. Also, avoid salted nuts, which can cause high blood pressure.
The American Heart Association recommends eating about 4 servings of unsalted nuts a week, either raw or dry-roasted.
While nut oils are also a good source of heart-healthy nutrients, they lack the fiber found in whole nuts. Use nut oils in homemade salad dressings or cooking. Just remember: Nut oils respond differently to heat than vegetable oils and can become bitter if overheated.
Laugh Out Loud!
You may type “LOL” a dozen times a day on social media, but if you’re not Laughing Out Loud for real, you’re missing out on the heart-health benefits of laughter.
Research shows that hostility, anger, anxiety and loneliness can all lead to an increased risk of heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, people who rarely laugh are 40% more likely to have heart disease than people who laugh regularly.
Laughter doesn’t just lighten your mood and cause your brain to release a feel-good rush of endorphins. Laughter promotes heart health by:
- lowering stress hormone levels
- improving blood circulation
- increasing levels of HDL cholesterol (or, the “good” cholesterol)
In fact, research shows that the improved blood flow caused by laughter is similar to the effects of aerobic exercise or cholesterol-lowering statin drugs. And laughter has an incredible bonus!
The healing effects of laughter can last 24 hours, meaning even one good laugh a day starts a self-supporting cycle that promotes and helps maintain good heart health.
Don’t Know How to Get Started?
If you have heart-health issues and find it hard to laugh, you’re not alone. Studies show people commonly develop depression when faced with heart problems. However, here are five easy tips to get you back on track and keep your healing laughter alive:
- Limit your daily exposure to news and its depressing catalogue of shock and fear.
- Surround yourself with people who make you laugh. (After all, laughter is contagious.)
- How you laugh sounds perfectly fine. Everyone laughs differently (including the people who shoot milk out of their nose). Laugh like no one is watching.
- Kick back with a funny movie, TV show or podcast. (You’ve earned it, right?)
- Laughter is like shampoo. Lather, rinse, repeat.
Enjoy a Relaxing Drive
Forget about the guy who just cut in front of you, or making good time. Roll down the window, relax and enjoy the ride. A stress-free drive will do wonders for your heart.
Stressed-out driving isn’t just a safety hazard to other motorists and pedestrians (as well as your own life and limb). According to recent reports by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, driving-related stress is associated with elevated blood sugar and an increased risk of heart disease caused by diabetes or pre-diabetes. But that’s not all.
Driving-related stress can also increase your risk of heart disease by causing:
- elevated cholesterol levels
- blood-pressure spikes
- rapid heartbeat caused by anxiety
To help manage stress while driving, remember that few of us ever have lives hanging in the balance if we don’t arrive somewhere at a specific time. You may want to get home by a certain time, for example, to catch the start of a baseball game on TV. Yet your heart health is more important than a baseball game. (Just ask your friends and family.)
A few other tips to help keep your stress under control while driving:
- Take slow, deep breaths, especially in extra-aggravating situations like traffic jams. Slow, deep breaths reduce tension and stress.
- Avoid the annoying chatter and endless commercials on terrestrial radio by creating a playlist on Spotify or SoundCloud, or listen to your favorite CD.
- Make sure to pack along cool water. Unexpected delays can feel a lot more stressful when you’re dying for a drink, but take small sips. Few situations are more stressful than being jammed up in traffic and having to go to the bathroom.
Play Between the Sheets
You heard right. Sexual activity isn’t just pleasurable. Having sex is good for your heart.
In a 17-year research project to evaluate the health benefits of sex, researchers from the Massachusetts Male Aging Study randomly selected 1,165 men age 40-70 and asked them to provide regular information about their sexual activity. At the end of the study, researchers found that men who had sex once a month or less were 45% more likely to develop heart disease than men who had sex two or more times a week.
In a separate 10-year British study, men who had sex three or more times a week enjoyed a 50% lower death rate than men who had sex less often.
So is sex just good for male heart health alone?
Not at all.
In recent studies by Michigan State University, researchers found that regular pleasurable sex for women lowers the risk of heart disease caused by high blood pressure.
The key word for women and the heart-health benefits of sex appears to be “pleasurable.” Women in the MSU study who had satisfying sex had a lower risk of high blood pressure five years later than women who did not feel their sex lives were satisfying.
Despite similarities in the heart-health benefits of sex for men and women, research shows that men face a higher risk of stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular problems during sex as they age and don’t maintain optimal heart health.
If you’re unsure of your heart health, speak with your doctor before attempting any sexual activity.
Broil up some salmon or toss together a fresh sardine salad. Whatever your taste, fish are a delicious and rich source of heart-friendly Omega-3 fatty acids.
As a type of healthy unsaturated fat, Omega-3s help reduce and control blood levels of an amino acid called homocysteine, which comes from eating red meat and increases your risk of cardiovascular problems, including:
- heart attack and stroke
- blood clots
- atherosclerosis (hardening or narrowing of the arteries)
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 1-2 servings of fish a week on a consistent basis to get the benefits of Omega-3s. In clinical studies, 81 patients with type 2 diabetes consumed Omega-3s for 2 months before they saw their homocysteine levels drop. Also, the AHA doesn’t consider fish-oil supplements as a replacement for eating fish.
Avoid pre-battered, commercial fish fillets or sticks. Although they’re convenient, many frozen fish products are made from lean fish like cod and haddock, which are low in Omega-3s. On top of that, fast-food fish come loaded with calories, salts and artery-clogging trans fats.
When shopping for fresh fish, avoid bigeye tuna, king mackerel, marlin, orange roughy, shark, swordfish and tilefish. The FDA classifies them as highest in environmental mercury contamination, so children and pregnant women should completely avoid them.
If fish isn’t your thing but you still want to control your homocysteine levels without giving up red meat, many leading doctors and nutritionists recommend supplementing with an all-natural daily coenzyme.
Stop the Heart Damage of Statins
If you’re experiencing muscle pain and fatigue from cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, many doctors recommend supplementing with all-natural Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) to relieve aches, regain energy and protect your heart.
As a natural chemical produced by your body to give you energy and keep your liver and kidneys healthy, CoQ10 also protects your heart as a powerful antioxidant that additionally maintains healthy blood levels of homocysteine to prevent against stroke, heart attack and heart disease. As a bonus, CoQ10 promotes healthy digestion, and research suggests CoQ10 helps improve age-related vision loss.
CoQ10 deficiency can occur naturally because of low dietary intake, high CoQ10 use by your body or age, and early symptoms include elevated cholesterol levels.
The trouble is, most doctors don’t test for CoQ10 deficiency and instead prescribe cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, which only make the problem worse.
CoQ10 shares a biosynthetic pathway with cholesterol. So as statin drugs work to lower your cholesterol, they deplete your natural levels of CoQ10. That depletion steals your energy, causes muscle pain and dials up your risk of heart disease.
As if that wasn’t enough, statins can hit you with other side effects:
- memory loss and mental confusion
- nausea, dizziness and vomiting
- diarrhea, bloating and rash
- insomnia and constipation
While modern medicine still clings to the habit of prescribing more drugs to treat the symptoms of other drugs, the story is changing with CoQ10. With many doctors now recommending a daily CoQ10 supplement to counteract the effects of statin drugs, that change shows just how important CoQ10 is as a daily heart-health nutrient, whether you’re taking statin drugs or not.
Do Something Heartfelt!
If you’ve read through every section of this important article, please take a moment to give yourself a high five!
You’ve shown a real commitment to taking charge of your heart health.
I don’t want to keep you from taking the next vital step, so I’ll keep this last tip brief.
Spend more time doing what you love.
It’s easy to get caught up doing what we think we should be doing every day… or what’s expected of us… or what others ask us to do, and that’s admirable and responsible.
Yet frustration is a major cause of stress, and as you’ve already learned in this article, stress is a big cause of heart disease.
So make time for your favorite hobby… or play catch with your kids… or go for a walk in nature. Include time in your life for the things that you love… that feel good—right down to your heart…
…and your heart will pay you back for years with great health.
And don’t forget…
Knowledge is power—and the key to a lifetime of strong health. As a FREE lifetime resource and service to you and those you love, please bookmark this article.