1. Eat Healthy Fats, NOT Trans Fats
We need fats in our diet, including saturated and polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats. One fat we don’t need is trans fat, which is known to increase your risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke over a lifetime. This is because trans fat clogs your arteries by raising your bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and lowering your good cholesterol levels (HDL). By cutting them from your diet, you improve the blood flow throughout your body. So, what are trans fats? They are industry-produced fats often used in packaged baked goods, snack foods, margarines and fried fast foods to add flavor and texture. TIP: Read the labels on all foods. Trans fat appears on the ingredients list as partially hydrogenated oils. Look for 0 percent trans fat. Make it a point to avoid eating foods with trans fat.
2. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is an essential part of keeping your heart healthy. If you don’t sleep enough, you may be at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease no matter your age or other health habits. One study looking at 3,000 adults over the age of 45 found that those who slept fewer than six hours per night were about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night. Researchers believe sleeping too little causes disruptions in underlying health conditions and biological processes, including blood pressure and inflammation. TIP: Make sleep a priority. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep most nights. If you have sleep apnea, you should be treated as this condition is linked to heart disease and arrhythmias.
3. Cut the Salt
Cook without salt, limit processed foods, and go easy on the salt shaker. Aim to bring down the sodium you eat to 1,500 milligrams, the American Heart Association’s daily limit.
4. Go For Grains
Whole grains help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and may help prevent type 2 diabetes. Think about corn tortillas, whole wheat pancakes and pasta, bulgur wheat, oatmeal, quinoa, and chewy, delicious brown rice or wild rice.
5. Be Physically Active
You can slowly work up to at least 2½ hours (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (e.g., brisk walking) every week or 1 hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity (e.g., jogging, running) or a combination of both every week.
Additionally, on 2 or more days a week you need muscle-strengthening activities that work all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest shoulders, and arms). Children should get at least 60 minutes of activity every day.
It’s never too early or too late to learn the warning signs of a heart attack and stroke. Not everyone experiences sudden numbness with a stroke or severe chest pain with a heart attack. And heart attack symptoms in women can be different than men.