5 ways to love your heart today
Make every day World Heart Day and honour your cardiovascular health by following these five simple strategies for a healthier heart
Have oatmeal for breakfast
Oatmeal is packed with healthy nutrients including beta-glucan, a soluble fibre that keeps bad cholesterol at bay. Choose old-fashioned or steel-cut oatmeal over instant varieties for the biggest benefit. For a breakfast that packs a heart-boosting punch, combine your oats with ground flaxseed and antioxidant-loaded berries.
Quit this habit and your heart will thank you. Smoking dramatically raises your risk of death from cardiovascular disease. But just a year after you stop, your chances of a smoking-related heart attack will be reduced by half. After 15 years, your likelihood of dying from a heart attack will be the same as someone who never smoked. Breaking an addiction is never a cinch. But a combination of counselling and medication to deal with withdrawal symptoms can help you succeed.
Get a little daily exercise
Regular exercise cuts your risk of heart disease and stroke, big-time. How much is enough? Adults should aim for 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity per day. But your body benefits just as much by doing it in 10-minute installments, so small changes like parking two blocks from the office will make a huge difference. Keep this in mind if a regular exercise program seems too daunting-for instance, 10 minutes of taking the stairs instead of the elevator, a brisk 10-minute walk in the morning and another in the evening adds up to your daily minimum.
Eat a piece of dark chocolate
Believe it or not, several small studies suggest dark chocolate could be good for your heart! The beneficial effects are likely due to chemicals in chocolate called flavonoids, which help arteries stay flexible. Other properties of the sweet stuff seem to make arteries less likely to clot and prevent the “bad” cholesterol, LDL, from oxidizing, making it less likely to form plaque. Dark chocolate is also rich in magnesium and fibre. But steer clear of milk chocolate, which is high in butterfat and thus tends to raise cholesterol.
Go to bed an hour earlier tonight
A Harvard study of 70,000 women found that those who got less than seven hours of sleep had a slightly higher risk of heart disease. Researchers suspect lack of sleep increases stress hormones, raises blood pressure, and affects blood sugar levels. Keep your overall sleeping time to no more than nine hours, however. The same study found women sleeping nine or more hours had a slightly increased risk of heart disease.