Health & Fitness

Six tips for lowering your heart risk

Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Eat four to five servings each day.
Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Eat four to five servings each day. JupiterImages

When you're busy balancing work, family, friends and a personal life, it's easy to forget how important heart-health is to your overall well-being.

But there are easy ways to lower your risk for heart disease, heart attack, diabetes or stroke. Here are six tips to keep your heart healthy and happy.

1. Load up on fruits and veggies.

Fruits and vegetables are low in calories and high in heart-healthy vitamins, minerals and fiber. Get your daily fix by eating four to five servings each day, and be sure to mix it up with fresh, frozen, dried and canned fruits and vegetables. As long as you they taste delicious, you won't get bored with the flavor.

2. Choose whole grains.

Whole grains are naturally low-fat, high in fiber and full of vitamins and minerals that help regulate your blood pressure and cholesterol. As little as three servings per day have shown to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. Have oatmeal or whole-wheat toast for breakfast and when you're craving an afternoon snack, ditch the crackers and chips for raw granola or air-popped popcorn.

3. Drink more water.

Not only does drinking water clear up your skin and help prevent overeating, but it is also good for your heart. Dehydration and lack of water can cause blood to thicken, forcing your heart to work harder to pump it throughout your body. Drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day will help regulate blood flow so your most important organ is not strained.

4. Do some aerobic exercise.

The best way to keep you heart in shape is aerobic exercise. Walking, biking, swimming, running and dancing are great ways to make your heart and lungs stronger, improve your stamina, and get your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers down. Not only does aerobic activity lower your risk of heart attack and stroke, but it also has been shown to improve your mood.

5. Get enough sleep.

Keeping up with a busy schedule often means slashing sleep to create more time in the day. However, when you don't get enough sleep at night, blood sugar is poorly regulated which can lead to inflammation of the veins and arteries. This inflammation can scar the inside of your arteries, attracting plaque and increasing your risk for a heart attack. Aim to get around eight hours of sleep each night to protect your heart, stabilize blood sugar and stay trim.

6. Quit smoking.

Everything about smoking is bad for your heart. Nicotine increases your cardiac muscle's need for blood and decreases the amount of blood that can flow through your blood vessels. Carbon monoxide bumps oxygen molecules off of your red blood cells, which limits the amount of oxygen that reaches your heart. When you're ready to quit, talk to your physician and be sure to research tools that can help you quit.