The thousands of chemicals in just one cigarette can lead to atherosclerosis, hardening of the arteries. Atherosclerosis puts you at huge risk for a heart attack. Plus, the carbon monoxide in cigarettes replaces some of the oxygen in your blood, so your heart has to work extra hard to pump enough oxygen through your body. Quit smoking, and your risk of heart disease plummets within just one year.
Want the recipe for a healthy heart? As any good formula, it's made up of multiple ingredients: diet, exercise and general good health tips. A healthy lifestyle is the key; you don't have to go to extreme measures or dangerous procedures. Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans, but it doesn't have to be that way. Follow these simple lifestyle changes to keep your heart as healthy as possible.
Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as an average of one drink each day for women (and lighter individuals) and two each day for men. More than that puts you at risk for high blood pressure, increased triglycerides (fats in the blood stream), heart failure, and cardiac arrhythmia. Keep your heart healthy by limiting your alcohol consumption to moderate or less.
Minimal Animal Fats
The typical U.S. diet--high-fat and animal-based--is the biggest cause of heart disease, according to "Vegan: The New Ethics of Eating." Switching to a vegan or mostly vegan diet (replacing animal fats with plant-based foods) can actually reverse atherosclerosis, giving your heart a huge health boost. Vegans live an average of 15 years longer than non-vegans, based on studies from Germany and Finland.
Here's a kind of fat that's actually good for your heart. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids found in fish (especially salmon), flax seed, walnuts and winter squash. They can lower your blood pressure, protect you from heart disease and straighten out an irregular heartbeat.
Being overweight is a huge factor heart health. A body mass index (BMI) higher than 25 is linked to a greater chance of heart disease and stroke. Keep your heart healthy by engaging in moderate aerobic activity about five days a week. This will lower your blood pressure, triglycerides and cholesterol, as well as strengthening your heart.
- Photo Credit flickr.com, m.j.starr
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