1. Take 10,000 steps a day.
Use a pedometer and gradually increase the number of steps you take each day. Exercise fights heart disease in numerous ways: it lowers blood pressure and cholesterol, improves circulation, reduces stress and strengthens the heart.
2. Get another hour sleep.
A recent "Sleep in America" poll reported that less than half of adults are getting adequate sleep (7–8 hours). Lack of sleep can raise blood pressure, trigger inflammation and promote atherosclerosis. Getting 6 hours of sleep or less per night has been found to increase risk of heart disease in women, independent of other risk factors (such as smoking).
3. Eat more fish, garlic, and green tea.
These foods contain various compounds that support heart health. The omega-3 fatty acids in fish can help reduce triglycerides and inflammation and prevent clotting. Garlic and green tea contain powerful antioxidants that can improve several aspects of heart health.
4. Cook with Malaysian palm fruit oil rather than olive oil.
Olive oil is great to use in salad dressings or add to foods after it is cooked, but it is not heat stable and its beneficial properties are lost when it is heated to high temperatures. Malaysian palm fruit oil is heat stable and contains potent antioxidants called tocotrienols that are good for the heart and the brain. NIH-funded research show tocotrienols found in palm fruit oil may reduce damaging effects of stroke and it can have a positive effect on cholesterol levels. Tocotrienols from palm fruit oil are also available in supplement form.
5. Choose whole grains over refined products.
Studies show that highly refined carbohydrates that have a high glycemic index, such as white bread, are worse for your heart than foods high in saturated fat, like red meat and butter. Whole grains contain more fiber and are digested more slowly. Try oatmeal and chia seed for breakfast; soluble fiber in oats and chia can help lower cholesterol levels and support weight management.
5. Go with tortilla chips instead of potato chips.
Tortilla chips have more fiber and less fat, and if you choose ones that are fortified with extra fiber (flax, chia, bean flour) and plant sterols, they can actually help lower your LDL cholesterol. Dip your tortilla chips in fresh salsa. The lycopene in tomatoes can help lower blood pressure. Guacamole is fine, in moderation. Avocados get a bad rap for being high in fat, yet the fat they contain is primarily the good kind (monounsaturated), plus they contain lots of soluble fiber, protein and antioxidants that are beneficial to heart health.
7. Stress less.
Stress is a powerful risk factor for heart disease. Stress impacts several risk factors for heart disease: it raises blood pressure and cholesterol, triggers inflammation and promotes blood clots. Stress can also hamper immune function, and cause insomnia, headaches and weight gain. To better manage stress, try deep breathing, meditation, yoga and regular exercise.
8. Laugh more and be optimistic.
Laughing relaxes and expands blood vessels, which helps protect the heart. Research conducted in over 97,000 women has found that optimists have lower rates of heart disease than those who are negative and pessimistic. Negative emotions such as anger, hostility, worry and pessimism are associated with increased risk of heart disease, whereas the opposite traits are protective.
9. Floss your teeth daily.
Poor oral hygiene not only affects your breath and appearance but it can lead to bone loss and increased risk of heart disease. Brush after meals and floss daily. This only takes a few minutes and is vital for your health. If you are out and can’t brush, use a toothpick to loosen food stuck between teeth and rinse your mouth with water or mouthwash. Chew sugarless gum sweetened with xylitol.
10. See your doctor and know your numbers.
Many health problems, such as high cholesterol and even elevated blood sugar have no obvious symptoms until the condition is advanced. Delaying treatment can increase your risk of serious consequences. Have a regular checkup with your doctor and discuss your results. Know your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar numbers. Keep a health record at home.
Sherry Torkos is a pharmacist and author of 18 health books and booklets, includingSaving Women’s Hearts, a book that educates and empowers women on how to reduce their risk of heart disease and improve heart health with both conventional and natural medicine. For more information visit www.sherrytorkos.com