5 Ways to Get Your Heart in Shape

Did you know that heart disease is the #1 killer of men AND women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year?  That is approximately one every minute! Even one is too many and there are nutrition and exercise habits you can do to start improving your heart health today! Don’t put yourself at risk by not taking the steps to get healthy with diet and exercise. Here are 5 ways get your heart in shape:

  1. Exercise!  Exercise can help with weight loss and/or maintenance in addition to participating in lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure. Exercise conditions your heart helping it get stronger and not work as hard to push blood through your body thus maintaining a low blood pressure. In addition, exercise helps raise your HDL, or good cholesterol. Having low HDL is actually a heart disease risk factor.
  2. Eat more fiber! The average person eats about 10-13 grams of fiber per day and the recommended amount for women is 25-38 grams per day! You can increase your fiber intake by eating more whole grains (especially oats), consuming lots of vegetables and fruits with skins, and adding a serving or two of beans and nuts to your day. Soluble fiber (found in oats, fruits with skins, almonds, beans, legumes, seeds, etc.) can help lower bad cholesterol thus improving your heart’s health. Plus, fiber helps you feel full faster and thus take in less calories promoting a healthy weight.
  3. Eat your omega-3s!  Healthy fats, specifically omega-3s found in fatty fish, walnuts, soybeans, eggs, and healthy oils, can help raise your HDL or good cholesterol. Eating fatty fish a few times a week is one of the best ways to get omega 3s in your diet. You can also take fish oil, 2-4 grams per day, if you don’t like eating fish.
  4. Skip the salt!  Sodium, or salt, can contribute to an increase in blood pressure. If you are a heavy exerciser and sweat a lot, then replenishing your sodium is important because you are losing salt in your sweat. However, for most people, consuming more whole foods instead of processed foods is helpful to decrease sodium intake. Try flavoring food with herbs and spices to reduce your sodium intake.
  5. Cut back on saturated fat! Saturated fat in the diet can contribute to high bad and total cholesterol levels. Limiting these fats, like the kind you find in the skin on chicken, on red meat, in baked goods, in fried foods, and in white, thick and creamy foods (salad dressings, cream cheese, gravy, Alfredo sauce, mayonnaise, etc.), will help decrease your saturated fat intake. Keep your saturated fat intake to less than 10% of total calories.