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Health Connection: February 2020

4 Healthy Habits That Will Help Your Heart

Being proactive about protecting your heart doesn’t have to involve a huge lifestyle overhaul. Here are four heart-healthy habits you can easily incorporate into your everyday life.

Eat Breakfast
If you are among the 20 to 30 percent of U.S. adults who, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, regularly skip breakfast, you’re missing out on an opportunity to boost your heart health. The American Heart Association points to research evidence that people who eat breakfast are less likely to have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, two major risk factors for heart disease.

A study published in the April 2019 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that subjects who skipped the morning meal had an increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

You can reverse that course by pausing from your morning rush to eat breakfast. To make it healthy, quick and delicious, try these ideas:

  • Top a bowl of whole-grain cereal and fruit with low-fat milk or layer them in a glass with some yogurt to make a breakfast parfait.
  • Spread a whole-grain waffle or English muffin with nut butter and pair it with a fruit or veggie smoothie.

Keep Walking
Even if you rarely make it to the gym and your home exercise machines are gathering dust, you can keep your body and heart fit simply by doing more of something you do all the time: walking. An article from Harvard Medical School cites that walking decreases heart disease risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, vascular stiffness and inflammation.

Many fitness experts set 10,000 steps a day as the benchmark, while the average American only walks 3,000 to 4,000 steps a day, notes Mayo Clinic exercise physiology researcher Thom Rieck.

Snap on a pedometer and adopt these habits to take your daily steps a higher level:

  • During TV commercials, climb the stairs a few times or walk around the house picking up clutter.
  • Pace the room or march in place while you’re talking on the phone.
  • Follow an interesting art, nature or historical trail.
  • Walk with a friend or a pet for some company and extra motivation.

Laugh Out Loud
A hearty laugh is good for your heart. As the American Heart Association reports, laughter may reduce stress hormones, decrease inflammation of the arteries and increase levels of good cholesterol. Laughter also increases your blood flow and oxygen intake, which stimulates the heart and other organs, according to the Mayo Clinic.

To enjoy the positive health effects of humor, look for everyday opportunities to have a good chuckle.

  • Pin up funny pictures or quotes on your refrigerator or at your office desk.
  • Hang around friends who make you laugh.
  • Learn to laugh off your own flubs and embarrassing moments.

Let the Music Play
Music is a great energizer for a working out, but it provides other heart health benefits, too. Studies have shown that listening to music may improve blood vessel function by relaxing the arteries, along with helping the heart rate and blood pressure return to normal faster after physical exertion, according to Harvard Medical school.

A study at Massachusetts General Hospital revealed that music helps those who have already experienced heart attacks or other heart problems lower their blood pressure, heart rate, stress and anxiety.

To let the sound of music make your heart healthier, consider these ideas:

  • Create a playlist of upbeat tunes for when you’re tired and need to liven your mood and another with soothing songs for easing tension and anxiety.
  • Get nostalgic. Sing along to songs that evoke happy memories – or belt them out all by yourself.

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