Seven simple steps that will cut your risk for heart disease

Seven simple steps that will cut your risk for heart disease.

Just because heart disease is a leading cause of death doesn’t mean you have to resign yourself to such a fate. While you can’t change certain risk factors including genetics, age, or sex, you do have the power to change your lifestyle, and this may make all the difference. A heart-healthy diet, exercise, stress management, sleep, and regular health screenings are all ways to make your heart stronger and younger without the need for medication.

So what steps can you take today toward a healthy heart?

It’s Fish for Dinner

Plan to eat grilled or baked fish tonight for dinner. Fatty fish such as salmon, herring, or mackerel contain high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for the health of your heart. Research has shown that people who eat fish two to four times each week cut their risk of heart disease by 20 percent.

Beans, Beans They’re Good for Your Heart

The old saying is true. Beans are indeed a great source of low-fat protein that has been found to help reduce your risk of heart disease. If you don’t care for legumes, learn to like them. (That’s right—you have to do unpleasant things on occasion.) There are many kinds of beans to choose from (chickpeas, pintos, lentils, black, or kidney), so try them out until you find a few you can stomach. Add them to salads, soups, or serve as a main dish.

Snack on Nuts

Hungry for a snack? Grab a handful of nuts. Eating two and a half ounces (about one-third of a cup) of nuts each day will help reduce the amount of harmful fat in your blood and reduce your bad cholesterol levels. Like beans, there are many options when it comes to nuts: almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pecans, or peanuts. Take your pick. Or better yet, eat some dark chocolate with nuts. You may enjoy the flavor more, and dark chocolate has been shown to lower your blood pressure.

Get out of Your Chair

A sedentary lifestyle is a recipe for heart disease. Your heart and circulatory system need exercise to function at their best. Exercise, along with a healthy diet, helps you maintain a healthy weight, which reduces conditions such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and stress—all of which put undue strain on your heart.

Take a walk on your lunch break or play ball with your kids after work. Fit in at least half an hour of exercise on most days of the week. As far as your heart is concerned, any exercise is better than none.

Laughter’s the Best Medicine

Negative emotions and stress raise your blood pressure, and depressed people are at a much higher risk for heart attack. Laughing is good for your arteries, causing your blood vessels to dilate, which increases blood flow and lowers your blood pressure. A few light chuckles won’t do the trick. You’ll need at least 15 minutes of belly laughs. So head to the video store and rent a comedy tonight. Or better yet, have dinner with a friend who makes you laugh.

Have Sex

The advice that you’ve wanted to read all your life: Get your blood flowing with intercourse at least twice a week. For men, sex this often reduces the risk for cardiovascular disease by 65 percent. Just once every other week will lower blood pressure. This is made possible courtesy of oxytocin, the stress-relieving hormone released during intimacy. Not to mention, sex can be a great way to burn calories and get your exercise.

Schedule Regular Screenings.

Though there are plenty of things you can do at home to maintain good heart health, some things you can’t do at home. That’s why it’s important to have your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels checked by a medical professional. Contact your physician to find out when you ought to have yours checked.

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