Healthy Living for a Healthy Heart

By Diana Le Dean, First Posted on Huffington Post Blog.

For 50 years, the American Heart Association and the CDC have pointed out an obvious link between Valentine’s season and public health by declaring February American Heart Month. “A” for effort, I say. But really: A month, out of 12, for the heart? It deserves the best you have all year.

I propose a goal that’s more specific to February. Once holidays are over and New Year’s resolve has fizzled, it’s a great time get back to the basics. I think of February as the “reminder” month, the time to focus on what’s essential in life. I like to make a few changes in my life that fine-tune my approach to the basics of health. It’s my attempt to get to the “heart” of the matter, literally and spiritually.

There’s a great argument for starting right where the AHA and CDC would recommend. No studies prove that heart health is critical to emotional wellbeing, but just try to imagine how much your happiness could be enhanced if you treated this powerful muscle with all due care and respect. In February, though, the “why” interests me more than the “how.”

But in case you’ve ignored the memos about heart health:

    • Saturated fats, such as animal fats and butter, elevate cholesterol levels. Olive oil and other unsaturated fats can actually reduce cholesterol.
    • If you don’t eat ocean fish, try it. Or at least take fish oil supplements. Fish are chock-full of omega-3 fatty acids, acknowledged combatants of heart disease.
    • Antioxidants are not hype when they’re in whole foods. When you ingest these substances in their natural state, they have abundant health benefits. Get your antioxidants from berries (not juice), oatmeal, raw nuts and moderate doses of dark (75 percent cacao, or raw) chocolate, and some types of alcohol.
  • Drink water. And then more water. The jury’s out on why, but studies have shown that consuming more than 40 ounces of water per day can decrease the risk of heart attack.

 

Meanwhile, you should be giving your heart plenty of workouts, as many as your doctor deems advisable for your condition and age. Make it a goal to:

    • Exercise vigorously for 75 to 80 minutes a week. Take your pick of activity, but keep at it until you’re breathing heavily and don’t let up for 20 minutes.
  • Include some strength training. Unless you’re in a high-risk group, new studies suggest that weight-lifting promotes cardio health.

Continue Reading…

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