Eat a low fat diet. Get plenty of exercise. Check your blood pressure. The rules for preventing heart disease are common knowledge, yet it remains one of the leading killers of both men and women in the United States. If you’re already doing the big things to protect your heart, here are some unexpected little things that can help keep your ticker going strong for the long haul.
1. Don’t skip the fats.
Saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol are all to be avoided. These fats increase inflammation within blood vessels and encourage fat to deposit along vessel walls, increasing your risk of heart disease. But not all fats are bad. Avocado, olive oil, and the oils found in nuts and seeds can actually reduce inflammation and help your heart stay healthy. Eat them in moderation for better cardiovascular health.
2. Visit your dentist regularly.
A healthy mouth is important if you want to have a healthy body. The same bacteria that cause gingivitis and tooth decay can, if left untreated, travel through the body and cause infections in the valves and lining of the heart. This can lead to scarring and make you more likely to get heart disease. Your dental physician can make your smile beautiful, but he or she also helps keep your major organs working at their best.
3. Spend quality time with your pet.
Even 10 or 15 minutes spent petting a dog or cat can noticeably reduce blood pressure. Pet owners also typically report lower levels of stress than people without pets do, and managing stress is an important factor in keeping your heart healthy. If having a pet isn’t for you, consider volunteering at your local animal shelter. There are lots of homeless pets who would love to warm your heart while helping you protect it.
4. Meditate regularly.
Meditation does more than just calm and relax you– it can lower your blood pressure, help you manage stress and anger, and even reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease by up to half. Better still, it’s free, easy, and has zero side effects. You can meditate while walking, sitting, or lying down. The important thing is to focus your attention inward while remaining alert and relaxed.
5. Indulge a little.
Having a heart-healthy diet isn’t all about deprivation. Alcohol (especially red wine), coffee, and dark chocolate, all foods generally presumed to be vices, contain phenols, chemicals that help scavenge free radicals that can damage your heart. Their antioxidant activity can help protect you from cardiovascular disease. Just remember to indulge in moderation. A glass of wine and a square of chocolate will protect your heart. A bottle of wine and a pound of chocolate will not.
There are lots of little things you can do to protect your heart each day, and some of them might surprise you. Find ways to relax, pay attention to the health of your whole body, and include healthy fats and phenols in your diet to keep your heart healthy for years to come.