A new study shows that the keys to a healthy heart are simple indeed. When people followed these four rules – don't smoke, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly and eat veggies – they were able to dramatically reduce their risk of heart failure. Women reduced their risk by an astounding 81 percent and men by an impressive 69 percent.
We know it’s not good for us, but more and more research indicates just how dangerous smoking can be for heart health. Statistics show that the heart attack death rate is 70 percent greater for smokers than that for nonsmokers. Smoking cigarettes causes atherosclerosis which is a buildup of fatty substances in the arteries. As the cells lining the blood vessels and heart become damaged, your risk for heart attack increases. It’s not easy to stop addictive behaviors, but even cutting back a few cigarettes each day is a step in the right direction. Not sure you can go cold turkey? Visit SmokeFree.gov for helpful tools and resources.
Staying at a healthy weight isn’t just good for our looks, it’s essential to being heart-healthy. Research shows that obese men are 75 percent more likely to develop heart failure and women are 106 percent more likely. When the body carries extra weight, it taxes all the systems and causes a variety of health risks. One of the best ways to lower your risk for heart disease is to pay attention to weight management. Choose to fill at least half your plate at each meal with fruits and vegetables loaded with healthy fiber. Reading food labels can help you stay in control of portion sizes and keep an eye out for unhealthy ingredients. When eating out, share an entrée with a friend or take home half to eat later.
Regular exercise can do wonders for your mind, body and spirit. Not to mention, it keeps your heart pumping strong. Try to work in some form of exercise every day, even if it is just a short walk. More intense workouts that raise your heart rate are also important for heart health. Try to get at least 3-4 each week. If you get bored, don’t quit! Try new forms of exercise to keep things spicy or find a workout partner for extra motivation.
Join the veggie revolution! Each day we learn more and more about the amazing healing properties of vegetables and it’s no surprise that they are one of the most important steps on the path to heart health. Just increasing your daily intake of veggies by one or two servings can reduce your risk for heart disease dramatically. Choose fresh or frozen veggies over canned, which have high levels of added sodium. Add veggies to casseroles, soups, stir fries and other yummy dishes. Start each meal with a fresh salad and consider adding a healthy green smoothie to your daily diet for a boost of leafy green goodness.