Good nutrition and lifestyle play big roles in keeping your heart healthy. You can decrease your risk of heart disease by making smart food choices. Read on to learn more about ways to protect your heart.
Fruits and Vegetables Matter
Focus on eating more plant-based foods, such as vegetables and legumes, and fewer meats high in saturated fat. Not only are fruits and vegetables low in calories and a source of dietary fiber and antioxidants, they also can help keep blood pressure in check. High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart attack and stroke. What makes fruits and veggies so good? They provide a variety of nutrients, like potassium, a mineral that has been shown to lower blood pressure in clinical studies.
The recommended amount of potassium for adult men is 3,400 milligrams per day. Choose foods first as a source of potassium and always check with your health care provider before taking any supplements. Include at least 2 cups of fruit and 2 ½ cups of vegetables daily to help with your potassium intake. Great picks to help you reach this goal include tomatoes, spinach, potatoes, bananas, squash and beans.
Consider the Type of Fat
The amount and type of fat you eat makes a difference. Research has found that saturated fat may have negative effects on heart health. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting the amount of saturated fat you consume. Foods such as bacon, red meat, butter and ice cream contain saturated fat.
Replacing sources of saturated fats with unsaturated fats has been shown to be beneficial for overall cardiovascular health. Olive oil, canola oil, avocados, walnuts and almonds contain unsaturated fat.
Omega-3 fatty-acids, also a type of unsaturated fat, have been found to be helpful in preventing sudden death from heart attacks. Fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and herring, contain two types of omega-3 fatty acids, docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
Another type of omega-3 fat, alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) may also provide cardiac benefits. Flaxseeds and walnuts contain ALA. Include 2 tablespoons of ground flaxseed or 1 ounce (about a small handful) of walnuts on a regular basis to increase your ALA intake.
Physical Activity Does the Heart Good
Aim for physical activity most days of the week, with a goal of at least 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity, aerobic activity throughout the week. Simple activities make a difference. This includes walking, jogging, biking and dancing. Participate in strength training, such as lifting weights, working with resistance bands, and some types of yoga, at least two times per week. Remember to incorporate balance and flexibility exercises, too.
Prioritize Stress Management
Even if you eat right and exercise regularly, poorly managed stress can wreak havoc on your health. Getting enough sleep, practicing relaxation techniques and nurturing relationships are healthy habits that can help protect you from the harmful effects of stress.
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