1 in 4 deaths in the U.S. are caused by heart disease each year.
Are you taking your heart for granted? Do you only think about your heart when it announces itself with one of those unpleasant accompaniments like heartburn, heartache or heart attack? It’s time to give your heart the love it deserves.
The best way to get a clear picture of your heart’s health is to get screened. But between visits to the doctor, there are plenty of small, easy ways to show your heart you care.
Here are 14 days’ worth of heart-healthy behaviors that you can incorporate into your day-to-day routine.
Day 1: The best part of waking up…
Coffee lovers rejoice and reach for a second cup! Moderate coffee consumption (about two 8oz. servings) can decrease the risk of death from heart disease, according to research reported by the American Heart Association (AHA). The study suggested that bioactive compounds in coffee can reduce insulin resistance and systemic inflammation.
Day 2: Don’t be salty
Your ideal salt intake is less than 1,500mg, and the AHA recommends no more than 2,300mg per day. Sound like a lot? It’s not – 2,300mg of salt is one teaspoon.
Day 3: Keep your smile sparkling
Periodontitis (gum disease) tends to share risk factors with heart disease: smoking, age, diabetes and inflammation throughout the body. There isn’t enough research yet to prove whether gum health contributes to heart health, but a healthy smile is a good measure of those risk factors – and a good start to setting someone else’s heart aflutter.
Day 4: Nix nicotine
Smoking is a nightmare for your heart, increasing risk for blood clots and plaque buildup in the arteries. Studies at Brown University show that nicotine damages vascular tissues, can eat holes through smooth muscle and can lead to atherosclerosis. It’s not just cigarettes, either. Even though e-cigarettes are tobacco free, the vapor still contains nicotine. Oh, and smokers who use e-cigs to try and quit tend to be 28% less likely to succeed.
Day 5: Go nuts
Grab a handful of almonds, peanuts, or walnuts when you need a snack. Nuts are nutritional goldmines, full of:
- Good fats and plant sterols that help lower cholesterol
- Omega-3 fatty acids that can help regulate heart rhythms
- Vitamin E, which helps stop arterial plaque build-up
- L-arginine, which can help keep your arteries flexible
Day 6: Swap out the soda
Just cutting out one sugary, 100-calorie drink a day can take off 10 pounds of excess weight in a year.
Day 7: Enjoy long walks on the beach…or short walks around the block
The AHA recommends getting 30 minutes of exercise five times a week, but if you’re mostly sedentary, even a 10 minute walk every day is a great start.
Day 8: Pick up a book
Flex both your physical and mental muscles! Lifting a hardcover book (or two pound weights) a few times each day is an easy way to start toning your arm muscles.
Day 9: Scrub up
Wash your hands to fight germs! The flu, pneumonia, and other infections aren’t just miserable, they’re hard on your heart.
Day 10: Go green (tea)
Green tea contains antioxidants called catechins, which some research suggests may be responsible for green tea drinkers having 20% less risk of heart disease or stroke than those who only rarely drink it.
Day 11: Go green (veggies)
Veggies are good for your heart, that’s a no-brainer. But green veggies are a heart health heavyweight, containing fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which help rid your body of harmful substances.
Day 12: See less red
Anger has an immediate effect on your heart. Your blood pressure and heart rate rise, and narrowing blood vessels can reduce the level of oxygen reaching the heart and cause chest pain called angina. If you feel anger starting to affect you, step away from the situation and try to approach it from a different perspective by asking yourself if a jury of your peers would find your response reasonable in this situation.
Day 13: See less red (meat)
You don’t have to give up red meat altogether – who doesn’t love a burger now and then? Just keep unprocessed red meat to one or two servings a week, and avoid processed meats like sausage and salami, or make them very occasional treats.
Day 14: Make a date with friends or loved ones
Keep your social connections strong. Healthy, supportive networks of friends, family and community can help contribute to longer, healthier, and happier lives.