Most of us know that eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables and getting regular exercise is good for our hearts. But there are some lesser-known steps we can take to keep our tickers going strong.
UR Medicine heart specialist Dr. Christopher Cove offers five unexpected ways you can boost your heart health.
- Get your Zzzzzs—A good night’s rest is good for the body and soul. It can also reduce blood pressure and stress levels. People who don’t get at least seven hours of sleep a night are more likely to have high blood pressure and more stress, studies have shown. Need help getting sleep? Consider cutting back on caffeine and take time to decompress before you hit the sack. And say goodbye to late-night TV—sleep experts recommend not having a TV in your bedroom.
- Go nutty—Add some nuts to your daily diet. Walnuts are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids that reduce inflammation in our arteries. Pistachios, peanuts and macadamia nuts – eaten in moderation –can cut LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. And that can cut your risk of heart attack.
- Chill—Dial down the stress at work and home. Make a habit of “checking out” for 10 to 15 minutes every day. Turn off your cell phone, pop in your earbuds, and tune in to some soothing music. Breathe deeply and just listen. Consider taking a daily walk—maybe with your spouse, kid or dog. The exercise is good for your heart and one-on-one time with a loved one can help you unwind.
- Wine (a little)—Yes, a glass of red wine can be healthy thanks to a compound called resveratrol. Canadian researchers found it helps improve physical performance, heart function and muscle strength. Not a fan of vino? Get your resveratrol boost from moderate amounts of blueberries, peanut butter, red grapes and dark chocolate.
- Use your noodle— As the saying goes: Knowledge is power. When it comes to your health, be sure you know your numbers—blood pressure and cholesterol levels, weight and body mass index. Jot them down, discuss them with your doctor, and learn about your risk of heart attack and stroke. Then make a plan to improve them and monitor your progress. Simple changes like boosting your activity to lower your blood pressure, eating more grains and fish, and cutting back on empty calories in salty snacks and sugary drinks can pay off in better numbers and improved health.
Christopher Cove, M.D., is an interventional cardiologist at UR Medicine Heart & Vascular and associate director of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at Strong Memorial Hospital.