February is all about hearts, and not just because of Valentine's Day. In the spirit of Heart Health Month, we're taking a look at some of the harmful health patterns that may be affecting your ticker. You think you're doing something good for your body, but what if that's not the case? From unsafe sips to sleeping late, here are six habits to avoid in order to improve your heart health.
Don't just sit there! A little exercise goes a long way. A recent study led by the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University in Canada found that just 30 minutes of exercise a week can lower the risk of a heart attack by about 30 percent. Fighting heart disease might not be your biggest concern, but the power of even a bit of physical activity is certainly motivating.
The study followed over 24,000 men and women of all ages, from 52 countries, and compared the work and exercise habits of the participants, 10,043 of which had already experienced a heart attack and the other 14,217 had no history of cardiovascular disease. The research found that any level of physical activity can lower the risk. The data, which made its way into the European Heart Journal this week, notes how the risk drops 13 percent for mild activity like yoga or slow walking, 24 percent for moderate activity like biking, and 30 percent for more strenuous physical activity like running. Surprisingly, the percentage didn't increase if the duration of physical activity went up — although 30 to 60 minutes of exercise a week was the sweet spot — which can be spread out over each day.
Now we all know how good exercise is for our overall health, which is why it's important to make sure you are exercising at least 60 minutes each week. And if you are looking to lose and maintain a certain weight, you'll want to engage in moderate exercise for five days a week. And by moderate, I mean "slightly breathless," making sure you get your heart rate up.
In the Summer, we don't need to worry about getting enough vitamin D since we spend so much time in the sun. When cold weather blows in, most of our skin is covered and we spend less time outdoors, so doctors often recommend taking vitamin D supplements. Before you start popping capsules, be warned that a recent study presented at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association shows too much vitamin D can be dangerous for your heart.
When higher than normal levels of vitamin D are found in the blood, it can cause your heart to beat too fast and out of rhythm, a condition known as atrial fibrillation. Taking supplements doesn't automatically put you at risk since people absorb them differently, but high levels of vitamin D only happen in people who take supplements. That means if you do take over-the-counter Vitamin D, it's important to have your blood tested to make sure your levels are within a healthy range (41 to 80 nanograms per deciliter). Also talk with your doctor about the dosage that's right for you.
The RDI of vitamin D for healthy adults is 600 IU (15 micrograms). You can skip the supplements (and the risk to your heart) by making sure to get your fill of vitamin D-rich foods such as milk, soy milk, salmon, tuna, egg yolks, and cheese. For more sources, check out this list of 10 common foods high in vitamin D.
Eating 75 grams of dried apples each day may reduce your cholesterol levels. A recent study at Florida State University examined 160 women who were randomly assigned to two groups: those who ate dried apples for a year, and those who received dried prunes for the same time frame. The participants who were put in the apple group experienced a drop in their total cholesterol by 14 percent and their LDL cholesterol by 23 percent. Their levels of C-reactive protein, a substance in blood that is a marker for inflammation and increased risk of heart disease, also decreased.
DrSugar is in the house! This week she's answering questions about cardiovascular health for women.
I hear stats about heart health all the time, but don't know what I should be doing to stay on the right track. What should women in their 20s and 30s do to protect their hearts? Thanks!
— Hoping to stay heart-healthy
Heart disease has historically been viewed as a man's disease, and thus, prevention and awareness of heart disease in women was not always at the forefront. However, heart disease prevention in women is extremely important since cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in women (and men) in the United States. Let's review the precautionary advice.
It's Heart Health Month, and while hopefully you are aware by now that heart disease is the number one cause of death in women, what do you know about keeping your heart strong and healthy? Take this quiz to test you knowledge of how to care for your ticker!
Being that February is heart health month, it's a good time to review how to keep your ticker ticking properly. Ditching artery-clogging meat and dairy products, which increase risk for heart disease, sounds like a step in the right direction, but unfortunately going vegan like Alicia Silverstone doesn't automatically put you on the safe list. According to research, vegans may not be getting enough iron, zinc, vitamin B12, and omega-3 fatty acids from their diets, which are all essential for a healthy cardiovascular system.
On the plus side, vegans do tend to have lower BMIs (body mass index) and cholesterol levels. But to do their hearts good, vegans need to make sure to get their fill of the heart-healthy essential vitamins and nutrients mostly found in meat and dairy products. Learn where to find those nutrients in a plant-based diet.
It's February and we have red, pink, and hearts on the brain. Whether you're loving your sweetie for Valentine's Day or giving yourself a healthy makeover in honor of American Heart Month, we've got you covered in our February Must Haves.
I can't remember the last time I had whole milk, or even yogurt that wasn't skim. Since dairy products are a huge source of saturated fat, I usually save my full-fat dairy indulgences for cheese and ice cream. But a new study is challenging my presumptions and suggesting that dairy fat might actually be a good thing. The study's results show that having higher levels of milk fat in the body may lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, or decrease the chances of a heart attack.
A team of doctors in Sweden looked at the levels of dairy fat in just under 1,000 individuals that researchers divided into two groups — heart attack patients and otherwise healthy people. What they found was that participants who had the highest levels of milk fat were actually at a lower risk of developing heart disease — for women the risk decreased by 26 percent. The study also suggests that eating more full-fat dairy may actually help us live longer lives.
Before you go crazy in the cheese section of your market, keep in mind this is an early study. From here, doctors are going to determine how much credit can be given to the attributes of dairy fat vs. lifestyle factors. For now, continue to get about 30 percent of your daily calories from fat, and limit your intake of saturated fats.
Is it me, or are flaxseeds being added to just about everything these days? That's because they're so good for you, but do you know why? Check out the reasons you should be eating flaxseeds (if you're not already).
- Walnuts and fish are excellent sources of omega-3s, but so are flaxseeds. The recommended daily intake (RDI) of omega-3s is 1.1 grams a day, and one tablespoon of flaxseed offers 1.8 grams.
- The omega-3s in flaxseed can help reduce the inflammation that leads to conditions such as asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, migraine headaches, and osteoporosis.
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is one kind of omega-3s that is found in flaxseeds, and this fat helps promote bone health.
- Flaxseed is known to lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, and it may lower blood pressure — all essential elements to having a healthy heart.
- Whole flaxseeds are great sources of fiber. One tablespoon contains three grams of fiber, so they can help prevent constipation.
- Lignans, the fibers found in flaxseed, promote regular digestion and are thought to have a role in breast cancer prevention.
It's obvious these smooth little seeds are nutrition powerhouses. For some creative tips on how you can get more flax into your diet, read more