Heart : Love Your Heart

February is American Heart Month, and itís the perfect time to make changes to support cardiovascular health. A heart-healthy diet and lifestyle are your best weapons against heart disease, and some simple tips can go a long way toward maintaining cardiovascular health.

Go Mediterranean. If youíre looking for a heart-healthy eating plan, it doesnít get much better than the Mediterranean diet. Here are the basics: eat primarily plant-based foods, replace butter with healthy fats such as olive oil, use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor food, limit red meat to no more than a few times a month, eat fish and poultry at least twice a week, and you can even enjoy a glass of red wine once in a while. This diet also emphasizes the importance of being physically active and enjoying meals with family and friends.

A traditional Mediterranean diet is linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. In a study of more than 1.5 million healthy adults, those following a Mediterranean diet experienced a reduced risk of heart disease and cancer, as well as a reduced incidence of Parkinsonís and Alzheimerís diseases.

Move more. Most experts recommend 30 minutes of physical activity at least five times a week, but even 10 minutes will make a difference. According to the Mayo Clinic, just 60 to 90 minutes of exercise a week can reduce your risk of heart disease by up to half. Start small -- go for a walk on your lunch hour and take the stairs, and then increase your amount of activity every day. The American Heart Association says that the simplest change you can make to effectively improve your heart health is to start walking.

Manage stress. Chronic stress is damaging to the heart, so itís critical to find ways to effectively manage stress in your life. Daily physical activity can help relieve mental and physical tension, and it can also improve the quality of sleep -- another stress reducer. The American Heart Association also recommends talking with family and friends, laughing whenever possible, making every effort to slow down, and giving up bad habits like smoking and too much caffeine or alcohol to reduce stress and support heart health.

Shop the supplement aisle. Studies show that a variety of nutrients can help support the heart. Cardiologist Dr. Stephen Sinatra recommends the following supplements for heart health:
  • Mixed carotenoids (beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-cryptoxanthin, and alpha-carotene) and vitamin A
  • Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols, gamma tocopherol, tocotrienols)
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Calcium and magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Folic acid
  • B vitamins
  • Chromium picolinate
  • Quercetin
Look for these nutrients in a high-potency multivitamin/mineral supplement or as part of a formula specifically for heart health.

In addition to a multi, Dr. Sinatra recommends 1 to 2 grams of essential fatty acids daily for anyone interested in heart health. EFAs help support normal triglyceride, cholesterol, and blood pressure levels.

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