Eight ways to reduce your risk of heart disease
The possibility of being diagnosed with heart disease is very real for most of us. Therefore, it's particularly important to do whatever we can now to reduce our risk factors.
Thankfully there are steps that can be taken to help reduce your risk of heart disease.
Here are 8 simple ways to protect your heart health:
#1 Eat more fish
Regular intake of omega-3 fatty acids has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, and to improve our chances of survival following a heart attack. The omega-3 fatty acids found in oily fish are thought to help the heart beat more regularly, reduce triglyceride levels, and prevent blood clots from forming in the coronary arteries. Aim to have two portions of fish per week (a portion is about 3.5 oz). One portion should be white fish, and one portion should be oily fish. Examples of oily fish include trout, salmon, herring, mackerel, or fresh tuna.
#2 Eat a diet high in fiber
A diet high in fiber has a wide range of wonderful benefits, including lowering blood cholesterol, controlling blood sugars, and making us feel fuller for longer.
Start your day with a high fiber cereal, such as a wheat, oats, or barley based variety, aim to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables throughout the day, and add extra bulk to your meals by including legumes.
#3 Add ground flaxseed
Flaxseed is high in alpha linolenic acids, which is a type of plant-derived omega-3 fatty acid, similar to that found in oily fish. Studies indicate that flaxseed can lower our "bad" cholesterol levels, and they may also help lower blood triglycerides, and blood pressure.
Add more flaxseed to your diet by sprinkling ground flaxseed on cereal, salads, and yoghurts, or try including in recipes when a nutty flavour is preferred. Flaxseed oil can also be substituted for other oils.
#4 Eat more legumes
Researchers at Tulane University found that people who included beans or peas in four of their dishes each week reduced their risk of heart disease by 22%, compared to those who ate less.
Try to add one portion of legumes to your diet each day, for example kidney beans, pinto beans, or blacked-eyed peas.
#5 Exercise for 30 minutes
Regardless of our age, exercising has been shown to provide a wide range of health benefits, including:
- Reduced stress levels
- Improved sleep
- Lower blood glucose, blood pressure, and blood cholesterol levels
- Strengthened muscles and bones
- Weight loss and maintenance
- Reduced risk of developing heart disease and stroke
Activity should be moderately intense, lasting for at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
#6 Get a good night sleep
Studies have shown that those who got less than seven hours of sleep have a slightly higher risk for heart disease. They suggest this may have something to do with higher blood pressure, increased stress hormones, and the affect on blood sugar levels.
Aim to get the optimum amount of sleep every night, around 8 hours is recommended, and try to sleep in one continuous block, as this allows your body to reach a deeper sleep cycle.
#7 Get a pooch!
Research suggests that simply owning a pet has a beneficial effect on our health. Health benefits range from higher survival rates from myocardial infarct, significantly lower use of GP services, to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
#8 Take time off
Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that individuals who took regular vacations reduced their risk of death from heart disease by one third.
Try to schedule time for yourself on a regular basis, not just at holiday times but also on a weekly basis. This should be a time where you relax and do things you enjoy, for example, play golf, read a novel, or take a walk on the beach.
Melanie Thomassian is a dietitian and author of Dietriffic.com, an online resource for credible healthy eating tips for busy people.