Being good to your heart will benefit you for years to come. Here are five ways to encourage a healthy and happy heart along with some tricks to get your brain on board.
1. Make Fish Your Friend
One of the best ways to boost your heart health is to make fish part of your daily routine. Add fish to your menu at least twice a week. Doing so may reduce your risk of heart disease by 30 percent, research suggests. Omega-3 fats in fish lower triglycerides and blood pressure; they also can help prevent irregular heart rhythms. Hard to eat lots of fish? Opt for a fish-oil supplement. For advice on which type of supplement is right for you, stop in to chat with one of our wellness specialists.
2. Get Moving
Thirty minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, three to four times a week, is ideal for your heart health but 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily will do wonders too. Swimming, running, cycling, and brisk walking are all excellent exercises for strengthening your heart. Regular exercise will help to prevent high blood pressure and maintain your ideal body weight – both factors that can help reduce cardiovascular disease. Schedule to meet a friend for tennis after work. Try a new class. Or sign up for a 5k run for motivation. And even though the Maine winter can put a damper on exercise, it’s still possible to enjoy it, especially during mild winters like this one. For some great tips on staying active this winter, check out Don’t Hibernate: Staying Active in the Cold.
3. Take Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
Coenzyme Q10 is a vitamin-like substance produced by the human body. It is found in virtually every cell in the body and is necessary for the production of energy within the cell. Significantly decreased levels of CoQ10 have been found in studies of heart disease. What’s more, many drugs used to treat heart disease – such as beta blockers and statin drugs, those typically prescribed to lower cholesterol and improve heart health – actually interfere with the body’s ability to produce CoQ10. Taking CoQ10 supplements, however, has proven to help negate CoQ10 deficiency and improve the heart’s ability to produce energy. Learn more.
4. Embrace the Mediterranean Way of Eating
The Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy plan that incorporates the basics of healthy eating – with good-for-your-ticker treats like red wine and olive oil. Research has shown that the traditional Mediterranean diet reduces the risk of heart disease. It focuses on a balanced way of eating that includes lots of fruits, veggies and nuts, limited red meat, lots of fish, and healthy fats such as olive oil and avocado. Ready to try it? Start with this Chopped Greek Salad with Chicken.
5. Find Your Inner Calm
High levels of stress can strain your heart and raise blood pressure. They may also make other risk factors for heart disease worse. One Women’s Health Study, sponsored by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, found that women who reported high job strain faced a 40 percent increase in cardiovascular disease overall and an 88 percent increase in risks for heart attacks alone. Focus on keeping emotional and work stress at bay with these techniques to reduce stress. Consider taking a mindfulness meditation class such as the ones offered at MaineHealth Learning Resource Center.
Tips and Tricks
Posts like this often make it sound like making healthy change is easy. We know it’s not that easy for a lot of us. There are ways to “trick” yourself into healthy behaviors. Trick yourself enough and it becomes a habit! Most people say that when they’ve started eating healthier, the bad stuff just doesn’t taste (or feel) as good. It really is true. Although your mind may make you think you crave the chocolate, fried foods, or <insert unhealthy craving here>, your body craves what it needs…nutritious and life-sustaining food. This food is what makes your body run efficiently. Here are a couple ideas for overcoming the mind games that can derail healthy habits.
Make Your Food Look Great
- The appeal of food starts with sight and smell. Present your meal like a high-end restaurant would and you’ll feel special every day of the week. Here are a couple tips:
- Start with a great looking plate. A lot of chefs use square white plates. They’re simple and make the colors of your food pop.
- Use garnishes. Sprinkling chopped parsley, chives, or minced green onions adds flair and taste without much work.
- Arrange nicely. Don’t just plop everything on in a pile. By arranging nicely, you will cut down on the amount of food and will keep your foods from forming into an indistinguishable blob. Here’s a great video to give you some ideas:
Spicing it up is great in so many areas of your life, but so many of us rarely use actual spices. You’d be amazed at how much better broccoli can taste if you throw some great spices on it and toss it in the oven (I do a lot of throwing and tossing in my cooking). If you’re unfamiliar with spices, start by following recipes that use spices generously. Once you find your favorite spices and make a habit of using them, you’ll be spicing it up at random when you least expect it! Read this great article from CookSmarts on how to use spices (includes very helpful infographics).
30 Minutes on Saturday
Take 30 minutes before your Saturday grocery store trip to plan what you’ll be eating for the week. This includes snacks, where we usually fall off the wagon. Have a favorite healthy cookbook at hand so you can plan a few meals that also double as great leftovers.
1 Hour on Sunday (there’s no football to watch, anyway)
Spend an hour on Sunday preparing your snacks and do any meal prep that can be done ahead of time. By preparing the ingredients on a day when you have extra time, you will make life so much easier on the days that you don’t. Include your partner and/or kids to make it social. No one likes chopping carrots alone. It’s true. There was a study. If noon or later, you can also use the time to drink a glass of resveratrol juice (aka red wine). Salud!
Make Exercise Fun
Yes, it is possible. Exercise can be fun! You don’t have to sign up for a boot camp that will have you swearing at the drill sergeant (which I do on Thursdays). Here are some tips to make it fun:
- Don’t call it exercise. Call it getting physical, family fun time, raising the roof, letting the dogs out, whatever. It’ll put a fun spin on the dreaded e-word (or worse, the w-word “workout” … eew!).
- Walk to your destination. Park your car at Deering Oaks Park if you’re going to Coffee by Design and walk. The Google says that’s roughly 15 minutes each way. 30 minutes of letting the dogs out… BAM!
- Be social. Meet your friends at Deering Oaks Park (see previous bullet). If you need more coffee on your way back to the car, stop at Tiqa Cafe in the park!
- Multitask. We all do it, unfortunately, but this time it’s healthy. Find a great podcast or audiobook and listen to it on your walk. If you only listen to the book on your walk, you’ll be jonesing for that next walk to get to the next chapter!
- Save some dough. Don’t outsource your homework. Do your own snow removal, housework or yard work. It’s a great way to get moving while saving money at the same time.
- Play. If you have a good table or kitchen island, clear it off and play some ping pong. It’s seriously fun and they just happen to be in stock at Dick’s! And it just so happens, it’s hard to play ping pong alone (see bullet 3…this is a vicious healthy cycle)! If you have kids, they make it extremely easy to play. And there you have it… family fun time!
These are just a few ideas. I’m sure a lot of you can come up with your own tricks. Which brings us to our last tip: BE CREATIVE! Creativity is fun. 🙂