So often we read articles telling us how to get healthy. Stay fit, lose weight, eat this, drink that. With all of this advice, it’s far too easy to neglect the most important muscle of all — our hearts!
According to the CDC, heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Unfortunately, typical American diets and habits are not conducive to heart health.
Luckily, there are a variety of easy habits that can help us keep our hearts strong and healthy. Sherri Torkos, pharmacist and co-author of Saving Women’s Hearts, helped me understand some heart healthy habits.
Exercise will help to maintain a healthy figure, outside and in. By lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, improving circulation, strengthening the heart muscle and reducing stress, exercise will give you the one up on heart disease.
According to MayoClinic.com, we should get at least 30-60 minutes of moderately intense exercise, most days.
MayoClinic explains that, “even shorter amounts of exercise offer heart benefits, so if you can't meet those guidelines, don't give up. You can even break up your workout time into 10-minute sessions.”
Sherri Torkos recommends using a pedometer to track your steps each day. A good goal is to aim for 10,000 steps a day — an easy way to calculate if parking on the other side of the shopping complex is actually paying off.
As always, maintaining a healthy diet is one of the most important health decisions you can make. And try to get good at this one, since you make these choices at least three times a day.
MayoClinic suggests a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
Watch your saturated and trans fats, as these can raise blood cholesterol levels, thus increasing the risk of heart disease.
Saturated fats to keep an eye on are red meat, dairy products, coconut and palm oils.
Trans fat to beware of are deep-fried fast foods, packaged foods, margarines, crackers.
Fish contains omega-3s,nourishing essential fatty acids that can help lower triglycerides and cholesterol, and reduce inflammation and clotting. If you’re not a fan of fish, get your omegas through chia seeds, flax seeds, or a supplement.
Torkos also recommends cholesterol-lowering super foods like red palm fruit oil, which has been shown to reduce stroke, and plant sterols, which can quickly and significantly lower cholesterol levels.
In addition to nutrition and exercise, there are also natural, heart healthy supplements.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): Because it can improve energy production in cells, prevent blood clot formation, and act as an antioxidant, researchers believe that CoQ10 can help with heart health, and heart-related conditions.
Learn more here.
Garlic: Although cooking with garlic may be the tastiest way to consume it, a supplement will assure that you get a healthy dose of this super food. Garlic is used to prevent heart disease, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Because it is so rich in antioxidants, it is believed to boost the immune system and protect against cancer!
Although exercise and nutrition are the best ways to protect your heart, living a good life is the easiest.
Torkos suggests getting plenty of sleep, and keeping a positive attitude! She explains that, “lack of sleep can raise blood pressure and trigger inflammation, and laughing relaxes and expands blood vessels, which protects the heart.”
Coenzyme Q10. (n.d.). University of Maryland Medical Center | Home. Retrieved April 15, 2012, from
Fogoros, R. N. (n.d.). How To Keep Your Heart Healthy. The Heart Disease and Cardiology Home Page. Retrieved April 15, 2012, from
Garlic. (n.d.). University of Maryland Medical Center | Home. Retrieved April 15, 2012, from
Heart disease prevention: 5 strategies keep your heart healthy - MayoClinic.com. (n.d.). Mayo Clinic. Retrieved April 15, 2012, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/heart-disease-prevention/WO00041/NSECTI...
Email interview with Sherri Torkos. April 2 2012.
Reviewed April 17, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith