5 Healthy Heart Habits
September is Heart Awareness Month. Did you know that by losing just 10% of your body weight (assuming you are carrying some excess), you can stave off a multitude of lifestyle diseases, from heart attack and stroke to diabetes and metabolic syndrome? Taking off as little as 10% of your total body weight will translate into a myriad of health benefits, which will leave you feeling younger and more energetic. Matters of the heart can sometimes be a little difficult to incorporate into one’s lifestyle, but we’ve made them a bit more fun for you. Here are 5 habits to nurture as you nurse your heart back to good health. Small consistent changes yield big results!
1. Salad 3 times a week
We are omnivorous and have always been designed to eat both meats and plants. Leafy greens, reds and yellows (the robot combo) are extremely important for our heart health. Did you know that greens are the healthiest of the lot, with the lowest calories? The usual “5 portions of fruit and veg each day” may make your stomach churn, so have some fun and mix ‘n match for a delicious salad. Add lean biltong, chicken strips, tuna, cheese (in moderation), olives, fresh onion, bean sprouts, garlic, carrots and beans to the normal lettuce, cucumber and tomato. It’s also okay to eat an egg a day so you can add that to your salad, too.
2. Meat-free meals
Unhealthy fats can add to your heart troubles. Meat can be a great source of necessary vitamins and iron for your body, but having a braai every day will lead you into a world of heartache (quite literally). Keep your meats lean, and have days when you go vegetarian with your meals. You’ll not only save money, but your heart will thank you for cutting out the excess fats, which are present even in very lean meats (especially beef and mutton).
3. Lose the liquor and the smokes
Abusing alcohol is a sure-fire way to prematurely damage your heart. Did you know that you should limit your intake to 1 drink a day if you’re a woman and 2 a day if you’re a man? A drink is defined as a small glass of wine (120ml), a beer (340ml), or a tot of any spirits (25ml). Smoking also has a negative impact on the heart. It damages the lining of the arteries which leads to a buildup of fatty material (atheroma) and causes the arteries to narrow. This can lead to angina, a heart attack or a stroke. Even vaping products have been shown to carry health risks, with nicotine addiction creating a craving every 20 minutes.
4. Halve the sugar
Yes, we agree: sugary products are delicious, so we’re not saying dump all sugar – which is especially difficult if you have young children with grandparents who like to spoil them. Sugar, however, should be a treat that is handed out as the exception rather than the rule. Start by cutting the amount you use in your coffee or tea and avoiding creamy cakes, biscuits and desserts.
5. Take your partner dancing
Did you know that walking briskly (up to 4km/h) for 30 minutes a day reduces the risk of heart disease by 30%? You may find that walking is boring, so try some dancing instead. It’s fun, and it’s a great way to bond with the love of your life. High-energy dancing can give your heart a good workout. If you’re overweight, over 40 and haven’t exercised for a long time, remember to check with your doctor before starting a rigorous workout routine.
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Disclaimer: Any information contained here is merely a guideline. Always visit your healthcare practitioner for any health-related advice or diagnosis.