Top 10 Tips for a Healthy Heart

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In honor of February, the month dedicated to heart disease awareness and filled with Valentine’s wishes, here are my top 10 tips to keep your heart healthy and happy! ❤️

1. 🏃‍♀️ Stay Active

Do something active every day. Studies show a mix of aerobic exercise and strength training is best for heart health. Research even shows sitting too long at one time is bad for your health, even if you exercise regularly. Park farther away from work and stores. Try a standing desk at work. Get a little activity in or around your office at lunch time. Do a ‘7 minute workout’ (many Youtube videos and apps) at your office or at home on days you have not been able to get out and be active.


2. 🥦 Increase fiber and color in your diet

Eat 7-10 servings of fruits and vegetables a day to decrease cholesterol and increase antioxidants and phytonutrients for the heart. Half of your plate at every meal should be non-starchy vegetables! For breakfast, try a protein smoothie with added fruit and spinach or kale.


3. 🥑 Increase healthy fats and avoid trans fats

Increase intake of foods like fish, avocados, coconut oil, nuts and seeds to reduce inflammation and support heart and brain cells with the healthy fats they need. Avoid trans fats which clog arteries and increase your risk for stroke and heart attacks. Check food labels to ensure 0% trans fat.


4. 😁 Practice good dental hygiene

Brush twice a day and remember to floss daily. Oral inflammation (gum disease) and mouth bacteria are linked to an elevated risk for heart disease.

 
5. 😴 Optimize Sleep

Get at least 7-8 hrs of sleep a night and evaluate and treat for sleep apnea if present.  Research has shown a whopping 50% increase in heart disease when sleep drops to 5-6 hrs per night from 7-8 hrs. Similar health risks occur with sleep apnea. One of the most helpful tricks (though difficult) is to turn off all electronics 1-2 hrs before bedtime. Avoid checking emails, listening to news or using your smart phone/computer close to bedtime.


6. 💃 Live, Love, Laugh

Just as negative emotions have been shown to increase our risk for heart disease, studies show that happiness seems to protect our heart. Involve yourself in things that bring you joy. Make sure and dedicate at least 20 min every day to an activity that is enjoyable or fun for you. Give appreciation to others, dance, laugh, have fun!


7. 🧘‍♀️ Balance your life

Strive to create and maintain a healthy life/work balance with regular self-care. Meanwhile, mitigate stress as much as possible with activities like walking, meditation, yoga or deep breathing. Try guided meditations with easy apps like ‘Insight Timer’ or ‘Headspace’


8. 🤸‍♂️ Reduce abdominal weight

“Belly fat” drives inflammation which is clearly linked to an increased heart disease risk. If this has been difficult with more typical measures, consider options like the Keto diet and/or intermittent fasting.


9. 💗 Optimize your heart health markers

Ask your provider to check your blood for some of the most progressive heart disease risk markers: hsCRP (cardiac inflammatory marker), homocysteine (involved in B vitamin methylation and the MTHFR gene and linked to heart disease) and an expanded cholesterol profile (i.e. the NMR lipoprofile to look at cholesterol markers more linked to a risk for heart disease). Work with your provider or a functional medicine practitioner to optimize them. 


10. 🚭🍺 🍿Reduce exposure to compounds harmful to your heart

Avoid secondhand smoke, limit alcohol consumption and reduce dietary salt. All 3 are clearly linked to an increased risk for heart disease.