Heart Health Tips for All Ages
February is American Heart Month. You’ll have a head start on keeping your heart healthy all through life if you make good choices every day about food, exercise, and bringing harmful habits under control. “A healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons in the fight against heart disease,” the American Heart Association says. Here are some tips from the organization on how to keep your heart strong:
- Eat a heart-friendly diet. Choose a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, such as brown rice and whole-grain bread. Get more of your protein from chicken, fish, and beans than from red meat. When you cook, use olive or canola oil (which are monounsaturated fats) instead of solid fats such as margarine.
- Get off the couch. Get at least 30 minutes of an exercise such as brisk walking, bicycling, or raking leaves on at least five days a week. “There’s a mistaken belief that you have to go out and run a marathon, or else physical activity is not worthwhile,” says Dr. Timothy Church, a heart association volunteer and director of the Laboratory of Preventive Medicine at the Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, LA. “The fact is that the benefits begin the moment you get off the couch.” Consider parking at the far end of the lot, or walking outside or climbing stairs during your lunch break.
- Quit smoking. Smokers have a higher risk of developing atherosclerosis -- the buildup of fatty substances in the arteries -- which can lead to a heart attack.
- Learn ways to manage stress. Work to overcome habits that can harm your heart, such as allowing stress to become unmanageable.