Heart disease is the biggest killer in the United States, causing around 600,000 deaths every year. In honor of American Heart Month, consider making these five sustainable lifestyle changes to boost your heart’s health and lower your risk of developing heart disease. While you're at it, convince a friend to join you and share the health!
1. Get active
Cardiovascular exercise, as its name suggests, increases your heart rate and gets oxygen pumping through your body. Running, cycling and swimming are all excellent examples of cardiovascular activities. You should ideally engage in at least two-and-a-half hours of cardiovascular exercise a week to achieve optimal heart health. However, if the thought of this seems too much to bear, try taking a brisk 10-minute walk, three times daily, five days a week.
2. Reduce your daily salt consumption
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines, you should consume no more than 2,300 mg of sodium a day. Even if you refrain from adding salt to your food at the table, you may still be consuming more salt than you need. Processed foods, such as bread, cakes, biscuits and breakfast cereals, contribute an abundance of salt to the diet, as do foods that are naturally high in salt, such as bacon, ham, cheese and pickles. To cut down your salt intake, replace these foods with low-sodium foods like fruit and vegetables and high-potassium foods such as potatoes, beans and yogurt.
3. Increase your oily fish consumption
Oily fish, such as mackerel, salmon and sardines, will provide you with omega-3 fatty acids, which can help you to reduce your risk of heart disease. For this reason, the American Heart Association recommends you incorporate at least two portions of oily fish into your weekly diet. If you’re concerned about the possibility of taking in mercury or other contaminants, cast your fears aside. When it comes to your heart’s health, the benefits of oily fish far outweigh any chance of exposure to contaminants.
4. Limit your alcohol consumption
Excessive alcohol consumption can increase your risk of heart problems. If you regularly exceed the daily guidelines (one alcoholic drink per day for women and two alcoholic drinks per day for men), you may increase your risk of high blood pressure and weaken your heart muscle, which can spell bad news for your heart.
5. Cut your saturated fat intake
A diet rich in saturated fat will raise your cholesterol levels, in turn, increasing your risk of heart disease. Saturated fat is found in high levels in foods such as butter, lard, sausages, pies, biscuits, cakes, cheese and cream. By choosing low-fat spreads over full-fat butter and opting for skimmed milk over whole milk, you can reduce your saturated fat intake.
Whatever your age, size or physical condition, living a healthy lifestyle is the single most important thing you can do to achieve optimal heart health. With 26.5 million people currently living with heart disease in the USA alone, do not become a statistic – let today be the day you decide to take action!
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