- Stop smoking — no excuses
There are many steps you can take to help protect your health and blood vessels. Avoiding tobacco is one of the best.
In fact, smoking is one of the top controllable risk factors for heart disease. It can make a huge difference to not just your heart, but your overall health, too.
- Focus on the Belly
That is, focus on your middle. Researchers have confirmed excess belly fat leads to higher blood pressure and unhealthy blood lipid levels. If you’re carrying extra fat around your tummy, it’s time to slim down. Eating fewer calories and exercising more can make a big difference.
- Let the music move you
Whether you prefer a rap, melody or jazz, dancing makes for a great heart-healthy workout. Like other forms of aerobic exercise, it raises your heart rate and gets your lungs pumping. It also burns up to 200 calories or more per hour.
- Eat fish
Eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids can also help ward off heart disease. Many fish, such as salmon, tuna, sardines, and herring, are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Try to eat fish at least twice a week, suggests the AHA. If you’re concerned about mercury or other contaminants in fish, you may be happy to learn that its heart-healthy benefits tend to outweigh the risks for most people.
- Laugh out loud
Don’t just LOL in emails or Facebook posts. Laugh out loud in your daily life. Whether you like watching funny movies or cracking jokes with your friends, laughter may be good for your heart. According to the AHA, research suggests laughing can lower stress hormones, decrease inflammation in your arteries, and raise your levels of high-density lipoprotein (HLD), also known as “good cholesterol.”
- Stretch it out
Yoga can help you improve your balance, flexibility, and strength. It can help you relax and relieve stress. As if that’s not enough, yoga also has potential to improve heart health. According to research published in the Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative MedicineTrusted Source, yoga demonstrates potential to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Raise a glass
Moderate consumption of alcohol can help raise your levels of HDL, or good cholesterol. It can also help prevent blood clot formation and artery damage. According to the Mayo Clinic, red wine in particular may offer benefits for your heart. That doesn’t mean you should guzzle it at every meal. The key is to only drink alcohol in moderation.
- Move it, move it, move it
No matter how much you weigh, sitting for long periods of time could shorten your lifespan, warn researchers in the Archives of Internal Medicine and the American Heart AssociationTrusted Source. Couch potato and desk jockey lifestyles seem to have an unhealthy effect on blood fats and blood sugar. If you work at a desk, remember to take regular breaks to move around. Go for a stroll on your lunch break, and enjoy regular exercise in your leisure time.
- Eat chocolate
Dark chocolate not only tastes delicious, it also contains heart-healthy flavonoids. These compounds help reduce inflammation and lower your risk of heart disease, suggest scientists in the journal Nutrients. Eaten in moderation, dark chocolate — not oversweetened milk chocolate — can actually be good for you. The next time you want to indulge your sweet tooth, sink it into a square or two of dark chocolate. No guilt required.
- Kick your housework up a notch
Vacuuming or mopping the floors may not be as invigorating as a Body Slam or Zumba class. But these activities and other household chores do get you moving. They can give your heart a little workout, while burning calories too. Put your favorite music on and add some pep to your step while you complete your weekly chores.
- Go nuts
Almonds, walnuts, pecans, and other tree nuts deliver a powerful punch of heart-healthy fats, protein, and fiber. Including them in your diet can help lower your risk of cardiovascular disease. Remember to keep the serving size small, suggests the AHA. While nuts are full of healthy stuff, they’re also high in calories.
- Be a kid
Fitness doesn’t have to be boring. Let your inner child take the lead by enjoying an evening of roller skating, bowling, or laser tag. You can have fun while burning calories and giving your heart a workout.
- Take the stairs
Exercise is essential for good heart health, so why not sneak it in at every opportunity? Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park on the far side of the parking lot. Walk to a colleague’s desk to talk, instead of emailing them. Play with your dog or kids at the park, instead of just watching them. Every little bit adds up to better fitness.
- Brush your teeth regularly
Good oral hygiene does more than keep your teeth white and glistening. According to the Cleveland Clinic, some research suggests that the bacteria that cause gum disease can also raise your risk of heart disease. While the research findings have been mixed, there’s no downside to taking good care of your teeth and gums.
- Walk it off
The next time you feel overwhelmed, exasperated, or angry, take a stroll. Even a five-minute walk can help clear your head and lower your stress levels, which is good for your health. Taking a half-hour walk every day is even better for your physical and mental health.