Heart healthy plate of food with fresh salmon and greens

Keep your heart healthy

Check out these tips on how to prevent heart disease.

Eat right

A cheeseburger and fries might taste good going down, but on a daily basis it’s much better for your heart to choose a more plant-based eating habit. The good news is heart-healthy eating can be as delicious as it is smart. The American Heart Association recommends a diet high in fiber, which includes lots of fresh fruit and vegetables. Many farm markets offer recipes to help you enjoy their produce to its fullest potential. The American Heart Association also advises switching to whole-grain foods like oatmeal, brown rice, beans and lentils. And always read nutrition labels when grocery shopping so you can avoid foods high in sodium and trans-fat.

Get fit

Exercise is great preventive medicine; just 30 minutes a day, five times a week, can have a big impact on your heart health. Try walking, swimming, or even household chores such as washing the car, gardening and vacuuming. It all counts toward your fitness goals. Studies show you’ll add two hours to your life expectancy for every one hour you spend walking. Think about that next time you lace up your walking shoes!

Relax

Did you know chronic stress can increase your risk of heart disease? So, find time to rest and reduce stress by sitting quietly, breathing deeply and thinking of peaceful things. Try to avoid the triggers that boost your stress level or find healthier ways to respond to them. Combining these times of peaceful meditation with your walks is even better. Keep a positive attitude and seek professional counseling if your stress gets out of control.

Break bad habits

The best way to boost your heart health is by letting go of unhealthy habits that increase your risk of heart disease. If you smoke, quit. Limit the amount of alcohol you drink or try giving it up altogether. Replace soda or sugary drinks with water or fruit juice. And swap processed food for fresh options.

Imagine if another year from now you could look back and see how these small changes in your life made a big impact on your health. If you need help getting on the right track toward a healthier lifestyle, make an appointment with your primary care provider. They will be glad to talk about what’s right for you.

Brad Personius, MD, is the Director of Cardiology at Asante Three Rivers Medical Center and is a partner in Southern Oregon Cardiology in Grants Pass.

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