Every year thousands of people die due to heart disease with one in four deaths attributed to a heart problem. Men and women are both affected by diseases of the heart, many of which are preventable.

Eighty percent of heart disease could be prevented with changes in lifestyle, education regarding causes and learning the prevention methods. With the proper knowledge and action, you could avoid being a heart disease statistic. It is never too late to make the changes necessary for a healthier heart. Let’s explore suggestions to keep your heart healthy.

No Smoking

One of the biggest culprits leading to heart disease is smoking. This one habit affects many areas of health and is one of the most preventable causes of early death. When you smoke, fatty substances in the arteries, atherosclerosis, build up. Blockages contribute to a decreased blood flow.

It is difficult to stop smoking. Fortunately, many resources are available to help those who wish to quit. Speak to your doctor about options or contact the American Heart Association for additional resources.

Eat Your Veggies

Good nutrition is essential to living a healthy lifestyle. Eating healthy, heart-smart foods is not only good for your heart but also skin, energy levels, and overall wellbeing. The likelihood of developing atherosclerosis is reduced with a healthy diet.

Vegetables, particularly green and leafy vegetables, are known to be very beneficial for hearts. Topping the list are spinach, kale, and collard greens. These contain vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and are an excellent source of vitamin K, important in protecting the arteries and creating efficient blood clotting. Greens also reduce blood pressure and decrease arterial stiffness. Dietary nitrates found in these foods do assist with the function of cells lining the blood vessels.

Inflammation and oxidative damage contribute to heart disease. Vegetables containing antioxidants fight against both. One food, tomatoes, has been discovered to contain lycopene, which has powerful antioxidant properties. High levels of lycopene decrease the risk of stroke and/ or heart attack. One study showed levels of HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol, was increased when eating just two raw tomatoes four times a week.

Let’s Go Fishing

Among well-known superfoods fighting heart disease are cold water fish: salmon, tuna, herring, mackerel, trout, and sardines. These fish have omega 3 fats which are recognized for lowering triglycerides and blood pressure while working against inflammation in the blood vessels. Eating a serving of these fatty fish, about 3.5 ounces, twice a week, you could reduce the risk of heart disease.

Fish from the ocean potentially have mercury contamination. It is recommended no more than 12 ounces per week of these fish be consumed: halibut, sea bass, swordfish, mackerel, grouper, red snapper, and orange roughie. Avoid frying to receive the best benefit. Instead, try baking, broiling, grilling or steaming.

Get Rid of the Junk

Junk food may be a convenient choice, but nutrients are lacking. Refined sugars, saturated fats and an overabundance of salt negatively impact heart health. Not only does junk food contribute to obesity, but also clogs arteries and raises blood pressure. Instead of junk food, choose nuts, seeds or berries. These contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, all of which prevent heart disease.

Get Moving

Exercise helps decrease cardiovascular problems. Aerobic exercise stimulates hearts to work harder and contributes to overall wellbeing. You will stay in shape, sleep better and clear your mind. As little as 30 minutes of moderate exercise every week creates a significant difference. Break exercise sessions into 10- or 15-minute increments during the day to meet exercise recommendations or consider a short brisk walk.

Building muscles are extremely valuable. Strength training helps tone muscles by burning fat and building strength improves muscle function and decreases chances of injury. Moderate to high-intensity strength training is recommended twice a week by the American Heart Association.

February is a good time to start taking care of your heart. Make the best of your retirement years by contacting Bridge to Better Living to help you or a loved one. Reaching out to their Transition Consultants before investigating on your own helps decrease your stress level. There is NO COST at any step of the process. Bridge to Better Living helps you have a smooth and healthy transition with their extensive resources and experience. Give BBL a call for more information.