There's a reason why we've got a whole month dedicated to heart health: heart disease is the no. 1 killer of women. No matter what your age, you can benefit from lowering your risk of the disease. Aim to check these off your list for a happy heart.
- Get 150 minutes of exercise a week: That's the minimum amount of moderate-intensity exercise (like brisk walking) that the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends in order to help keep your heart in tip-top shape.
- De-stress: Stress can raise your blood pressure and damage artery walls, so recognize signs of stress and take a break so that you can lower stress levels. These 20 ways to de-stress, like doing yoga or taking a relaxing bath, can help.
- Ditch the soda habit: The AHA recommends only six teaspoons of added sugar a day, less than what's in one can of sugar-sweetened soda (nine teaspoons). Studies have linked high sugar intake to death by heart disease, so its important to limit the amount of sugar in your diet. Eliminitating sweetened drinks is a great place to start.
- Check your blood sugar levels: It can help to know your blood sugar levels, especially if you are at risk for diabetes, pregnant, or over 40. Have a fasting blood glucose test done every three years to help you monitor your heart disease risk.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Carrying too much extra weight, especially around your midsection, can put you at a higher risk of heart disease and stroke. Aim to get to a healthy weight with these smart and sensible weight-loss tips that have worked for our readers.
- Focus on fresh: Your diet should be high in fresh fruits and vegetables in order to keep your heart its healthiest. Fruit can help quell sugar cravings the healthy way, while high-fiber produce helps control blood sugar levels. Fruits and vegetables also are high in disease-fighting antioxidants, so load up the next time you take a trip to the store or farmers market.
- Know your numbers: Knowing your blood pressure numbers is important, since high blood pressure doesn't have any symptoms. If your blood pressure is over 120/80, you could be at risk for heart disease or stroke.
- Go Mediterranean: Diets rich in fish, olive oil, and nuts are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been proven to help reduce heart disease risk. Add these Mediterranean staples to your diet to give your heart a healthy boost.
- Limit processed meats: Studies have shown that those who regularly eat processed meats like bacon and sausage have a much higher risk of dying early from heart conditions. One study recommends limiting your processed meat consumption to 20 grams a day, or about one strip of bacon.
- Don't smoke: The link between cigarettes and heart disease is just as strong as smokers' risks of lung cancer, so just don't do it. Limiting exposure to secondhand smoke is also important, too; the AHA reports that nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke were 30 percent more likely to develop heart disease or lung cancer than those not regularly exposed to it.
Source: Thinkstock / mikanaka