Every day, your beating heart thumps away 100,000 times, circulating anywhere from 2,500-5,000 gallons of blood throughout your beautiful body. What better day than Valentine’s Day to give your heart a little bit of extra attention? In no particular order, some research-based tips on taking care of your ticker…
- Do you down a diet soda every day? Stop. Your risk for cardiovascular problems is 61 percent higher than for those who don’t.
- Love High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)? Keep going. Canadian researchers have found that short bursts of ‘all out’ sprints during cardio workouts help to keep arteries from stiffening as we age.
- Think you’re OK if you’re male and obese, but healthy in every other way? You’re not. A study of 6,000 middle-aged men found that those who were obese had a dramatically higher incidence of death after having a heart attack, no matter the other cardiovascular disease risk factors they did or didn’t have.
- Think you have some special protection because you’re a woman? You’re wrong. Heart disease is the #1 killer of men AND women in America. More females die of it than of all forms of cancer combined. A full 90% of women today have at least one known cardiovascular disease risk factor. And many don’t know that their symptoms can be very different than that of men. In addition, women with a family history are less likely than men to make necessary disease prevention changes.
- Rocking a hot body in your 40′s/50′s? WTG! Researchers have found that the higher your midlife fitness level, the lower your odds of cardiac death in your lifetime.
- Not getting enough fiber from grains in your diet? Tsk, tsk. You’re missing out on reducing your early death from heart disease risk by 24 to 59 percent (women have a higher protection benefit).
- Want to make a heart-healthy dinner for your special someone? You’re wonderful. Start with a black bean dip or hummus appetizer (beans lower cholesterol). Next, dress a salad with olive oil (a healthy monosaturated fat) and serve salmon as your main course (which is teeming with protective omega 3 fatty acids). Veggie sides, especially cruciferous ones like broccoli or bok choy, up your antioxidants (which reduce inflammation, a risk factor for heart attacks and stroke). Brown rice or other whole grains will add a dose of fiber (lowers cholesterol). End it with dark chocolate-covered strawberries (the flavanoids will help protect your loved one’s heart). Wash it all down with a glass of red wine (more flavanoids). Cheers!
- Think cardio’s the only thing good for your heart? Weakling. Lifting weights forces your heart to contract and push blood out to your body. The muscle repairs the resulting fiber tears and, in the process, the heart grows and strengthens.
- Don’t have a pet? Get one. Japanese researchers found that people caring for critters have higher heart rate variability (i.e., their hearts are better at responding to stress or physical exertion demands) than those who don’t.
- Giving dark chocolate to your significant other today? Smooth move. As long as it’s at least 70 percent cocoa, your gift will work to lower your love’s blood pressure and LDL (bad) cholesterol — both of which affect cardiovascular health. Also: Eating a bit of the dark stuff a few times a week has been shown to protect the heart from muscle damage in the event of a heart attack.
Happy Valentine’s Day, dailymilers!