Back to basics: 20 top tips for your ticker

“These tips may seem easy enough to many, but when you are struggling with an addiction including smoking, sugar, overeating or drinking, these ‘simple’ tips are anything but. Talk to your physician to get the help and resources you need,” says Dr. Danciu.

Dr. Sorin Danciu, a cardiologist with Advocate Heart Institute at Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, outlines numerous ways you can improve your heart health.

  1. Don’t smoke. It hurts you, and it hurts those around you.
  2. Sleep helps your body and your heart function optimally. If you are getting the recommended seven to eight hours a night and still feel tired, talk to your doctor. You may need a sleep test.
  3. Laugh more: Laughing relaxes and expands your blood vessels, giving your heart a good “workout”.
  4. Stress less: Stress, including depression, can narrow your arteries and increase you heart rate.
  5. Floss to help prevent bacteria from entering your bloodstream. Healthy teeth and gums are vital to overall health.
  6. Stretch: It keeps your blood vessels flexible.
  7. Don’t sit still – get up and move! If you work a desk job, try to take a short walk every hour.
  8. Work up a sweat – it’s good for your heart, and sweating also eliminates harmful toxins, like mercury and lead, from your system.
  9. Watch your waistline. When your pants start getting tight, it’s time to nip that weight gain in the bud. Fat around your midsection is not good for your heart – or your other organs.
  10. Cut down on the alcohol. It’s associated with high blood pressure and high fats. Moderate drinking is one drink per day for women and two for men.
  11. Cut out the sugar. Sugar makes things taste good but is dangerous in high doses, increasing your risk for a heart attack. Watch for hidden sugar, as well – those “healthy drinks” are often high in sugar. Limit what you add to your tea and coffee. But don’t replace full sugar soda with diet soda, which is also bad for you on many levels.
  12. Stay hydrated. It helps the heart more easily pump blood through the blood vessels to the heart – meaning your heart doesn’t have to work as hard. Water is best.
  13. Eat your fruits and veggies.
  14. Skip the processed meats. Bacon tastes good, but it doesn’t do a body good.
  15. Pass on the fried foods. High in saturated and trans fats, foods like french fries have been tied to heart failure risk.
  16. Eat fish – the unfried kinds – at least twice a week. Fish contain omega-three fatty acids, which research suggests help to reduce the risk of heart disease.
  17. Don’t salt your food. You are probably already consuming too much.
  18. Choose a smaller city over a major metropolitan area. Air pollution, more prevalent in larger cities, thickens your carotid arteries. Sorry, Chicagoans.
  19. Know your numbers. Keep track of your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar so you can get back on track with diet, exercise and even medication, if they get off track. Healthy numbers indicate a healthy heart.
  20. Don’t skip your medical checkups, and be sure to discuss your heart health. These checkups can help detect issues before becoming a problem.

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