The American Heart Association calls heart disease "the number one killer" for both men and women in the United States. Learn about 10 healthy heart facts so you can prevent heart disease.
- Walking 30 minutes a day 5 times a week can lower your chances of heart disease. It doesn't seem like walking would count as much exercise, but it actually contributes to a healthy heart. The American Heart Association has a free tool which you can download that keeps track of your walking.
- Drink red wine as part of a heart healthy diet. Red grapes contain what researchers believe to be an antioxidant called resveratrol. Resveratrol can protect your heart against disease. Drinking wine is actually better than just eating the grapes because drinking moderately can lower your blood pressure and heart rate. This does not mean that you should drink an entire bottle of wine everyday, but a glass or two is fine and might also reduce inflammation and blood clotting. More research needs to be conducted to consider this a heart healthy fact, so proceed with caution.
- Your Body Mass Index can tell you if you are overweight. Your Body Mass Index (BMI) is a standardized measure of body fat based on your height and weight. Normal BMI ranges from 18.5-24.9. A BMI of 25-29.9 is considered overweight and 30 and over is considered obese. Being overweight or obese is a big risk factor for heart disease. Aim for a healthy weight to make your heart healthier. NOTE: BMI does not take into account muscle mass, so it is less accurate for extremely fit or muscular people.
- Having high blood cholesterol increases your chance for heart disease. Your total cholesterol should be less than 200 mg/dL. Not all cholesterol is bad for your heart, so the most important heart healthy tip is to have an appropriate ratio of good to bad cholesterol. Optimally, you want your low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (the bad kind) to be under 100 mg/dL and the high-density lipoprotein (the good kind) to be above 40 mg/dL. You can ask your doctor to run a blood test, called a "lipoprotein profile," to find out your cholesterol numbers.
- Lower your triglycerides to get your heart healthy. Triglycerides are a form of fat in your blood plasma and like cholesterol they can be detected with a lipoprotein profile. Elevated levels of triglycerides have been linked to diabetes and heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends a level less than 150 mg/dL.
- Limit your intake of foods containing unhealthy fats and cholesterol for a healthy heart. There has been big hype about not eating trans fats, and you shouldn't; but just because a product (such as Doritos) touts itself as being "trans fat-free" it does not mean that it is good for you. It is important to look at labels for saturated fat and cholesterol. Foods that contain saturated fat and cholesterol are usually animal products: bacon, butter, cream sauces.
- Increase your intake of heart healthy fats. Polyunsaturated fats and monounsaturated fats can contribute to a healthy heart. Look for items like avocados and cold water fish. Almonds and flaxseeds are also rich in antioxidant and heart healthy fat, just don't go overboard.
- Indulging in some dark chocolate can promote a healthy heart. Just make sure that the cacao content is 70% or higher. Like wine, dark chocolate contains resveratrol. Cacao itself has cacao phenols, or flavonoids (an antioxidant).
- Quit smoking or don't start. Smoking can have even more serious effects on your heart than eating fast food. Smoking contributes to high triglycerides, high blood pressure and a lower immune system. Smokers increase their risk of heart disease by 50 percent and they are also most susceptible to blood clots.
- If you have heart symptoms, don't ignore them. In a study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only about half of the participants were able to recognize the warning signs of a heart attack. While most people knew that arm pain was an indication of a heart attack, they didn't know that heart attack symptoms also include feelings of weakness, dizziness, back pain and jaw pain.