8 Ways to Help Your Heart. Part 1

Wednesday, November 30, 2011 10:36
Posted in category Health

Don’t smoke.
Eat a balanced diet.
Exercise regularly.
Only drink alcohol occasionally.
Keep your weight down.

It’s sensible, standard health advice, to be sure. But it can also reduce a woman’s chance of developing heart disease by an astonishing 82 percent, say Harvard School of Public Health researchers.

Countless studies have shown the importance of lifestyle changes, such as cutting out saturated fats and quitting smoking. But as health writer Charlotte Libov puts it, “doing everything you’re supposed to do healthwise isn’t all that easy.”

This Harvard study proves that, too. Only 1 percent of the women who took part in the study — all nurses — said they faithfully followed these rules. “We’re creatures of habit, and habits are hard to change — especially those we really don’t want to change,” Libov said.

However, the importance of heart-healthy habits can’t be stressed enough, say American Heart Association officials. National health experts, including those from the Centers for Disease Control, encourage women of all ages to talk with their physicians about the importance of cardiovascular health and the roles exercise, good nutrition and weight control can play.

But here, in a nutshell, is what you need to know:

Don’t smoke — Smoking more than doubles your chances of developing heart disease and makes you six times more likely to have a heart attack. Cigarettes can be linked to 20 percent of all heart disease deaths. And it’s not just the smokers who are affected. The AHA estimates that second-hand smoke, the smoke that comes from other people’s cigarettes, causes up to 40,000 deaths each year.

Keep tabs on your cholesterol level — To keep yours low, stick to a low-fat diet with limited portions of red meats, full-fat dairy products and margarine. Your doctor can advise you on your ideal cholesterol level and how best to achieve it. A heart-healthy diet generally includes lots of fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes with a few proteins (meats, poultry and shellfish) mixed in.

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