If you’re thinking, “Why should I worry about heart health?” this will be a reality check.
A third of Americans already have some form of the condition. Even if you don’t have a family history of cardiovascular problems, you should take steps to protect your ticker. Why? Because your heart rules the health of every other system in your body.
“Every disease is connected to heart health, including Alzheimer’s, arthritis, diabetes, and breast cancer,” says Mark Moyad, MD, director of preventative and alternative medicine at the University of Michigan Medical Center. “When you protect the heart, you protect the body from head to toe.” Safeguarding your heart means doing simple things such as exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, and keeping tabs on your cholesterol and blood pressure. But you could be doing more.
The following tips represent the latest research on the foods, supplements, and mind-body techniques you need now to keep your cardiovascular system strong in the years to come. What you read may save your life.
3 Foods to Avoid
Some of the most important foods for boosting heart health are not the ones you should eat, but rather the ones you should avoid. Here are the top no-no’s.
Aside from triggering LDL cholesterol to build up in your arteries, a diet high in saturated fat greatly increases obesity risk—a co-indicator of heart disease. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) recommends relegating saturated fat to 10 percent or less of your daily calories.
Easy tweaks: Choose grass-fed beef, which has less saturated fat and more heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids than grain-raised beef, and opt for skim or low-fat milk, cheese, and yogurt.
Although some dietary sodium aids proper nerve and muscle function, too much can lead to high blood pressure and increased risk of stroke or heart attack. Keep your sodium levels in check by
consuming no more than 2,300 mg a day, says the NIH. If your blood pressure is already high, cut down to 1,500 mg a day.
Easy tweaks: Shun canned and prepackaged foods, and order baked and broiled—never fried—restaurant options.
Because of sugar’s role in obesity and diabetes—conditions that significantly up heart-disease risk—the American Heart Association advises that women get no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar a day and men limit their intake to 9 teaspoons a day. The average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of sugar per day.
Easy tweaks: Steer clear of soft drinks, fruit juices, and sugar bombs such as ketchup, sweetened dried fruit, and salad dressings
A Healthy Heart
To learn what you should be doing to keep your heart in tip-top shape, check out these tips: