9 Superfoods for Your Heart

Heart Disease

The single most important step you can take for heart health starts with what you put on your plate

No Half-Hearted Measures

Unfortunately, you won’t disease-proof your heart by simply adding chocolate, wine, and nuts to a diet full of doughnuts and bacon. Groundbreaking new studies explain why.

For years, government panels told us that the main villain in heart disease was the saturated fat in meat and dairy. We did the logical thing and cut down on total fat while upping refined carbs.

Bad move. Research now shows that the sugar and refined flour in our bagels, pizzas, cookies, and sodas are even more problematic. Stripped of fiber (and other nutrients), these unhealthy carbs zip-line through the digestive tract and into the bloodstream, where they deliver a triple dose of heart damage—raising harmful triglycerides, lowering protective HDL, and raising blood pressure.

But saturated fat isn’t off the hook. Some studies have appeared to exonerate it—but only because people in these studies replaced the bad fat in their diets with harmful carbs. “When you eat good fats instead of bad ones, cardiac risk goes down,” says Harvard’s Walter Willett, MD. So treat cheese as dessert, not the main course, and favor lean meat such as grass-fed bison.

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9 Superfoods for Your Heart

Heart Disease

The single most important step you can take for heart health starts with what you put on your plate

Almonds

Rx Effect: Reduce LDL and fatal arrhythmias

The Evidence: “You don’t have to be miserable to bring your cholesterol down,” says David Jenkins, MD, PhD, professor of medicine and nutritional sciences at the University of Toronto. The plant sterols in almonds reduce the absorption of cholesterol from the diet, while the unsaturated oils encourage the liver to make less LDL and more “good” HDL. When Dr. Jenkins gave patients a vegetarian diet including almonds (along with other cholesterol-lowering foods, such as lentils, eggplant, and soy) for a month, he found LDL reductions of 28.6%—comparable to those on 20 mg of lovastatin (Mevacor). Just 22 almonds a day will do. Another study found major declines in fatal arrhythmias with 2 servings of nuts a week.

Try: Don’t limit yourself to almonds. Walnuts, pistachios, and peanuts are also great.

28 Days to a Healthier Heart

Heart Disease

Lower heart disease risk by 92% with a simple change each day

Heart Health Day 26: Go Bananas with Potassium

To lower your blood pressure, don’t just eat less sodium. You should also increase your potassium intake, as it speeds up the body’s sodium excretion, say researchers at the Hypertension Institute of Nashville. Lead author Mark Houston, MD, says most Americans consume more sodium than potassium, but it should be the other way around. Some popular potassium-rich foods to help fix this: baked potatoes, tomato paste, lima beans, yogurt, cantaloupe, and bananas.

28 Days to a Healthier Heart

Heart Disease

Lower heart disease risk by 92% with a simple change each day

Heart Health Day 24: Indulge in Dark Chocolate

Cap off your day with a nibble of this healthy dessert. Dark chocolate varieties contain flavonoids, antioxidants that make blood vessels more elastic. In one study, 18% of patients who ate it every day saw blood pressure dip. Have an ounce (at least 70% cocoa) daily.

28 Days to a Healthier Heart

Heart Disease

Lower heart disease risk by 92% with a simple change each day

Heart Health Day 19: Meditate for 5 Minutes

Practicing a form of meditation in which you focus awareness on the present moment can reduce the effects of daily stressors. Ride out a stress storm by simply closing your eyes and quietly focusing on your breathing for 5 to 10 minutes.

28 Days to a Healthier Heart

Heart Disease

Lower heart disease risk by 92% with a simple change each day

Heart Health Day 18: Assess Your Stress Levels

One of the biggest causes of stress is trying to live in a way that’s not consistent with who you are. Ask yourself: Am I doing what I want to do? Am I getting my needs met? Every day, run a reality check on what you’ve done. When it says that your actions aren’t true to the kind of person you are, make sure you listen.

Spend time with people and on activities that make you feel happy and challenged in a healthy way — not drained or burned out.

28 Days to a Healthier Heart

Heart Disease

Lower heart disease risk by 92% with a simple change each day

Heart Health Day 17: Spice Up Your Workout

The best exercise is one that you’ll continue to do. So every day, in addition to your regular workout, try something new just for fun — hitting a tennis ball against the house, shooting hoops with your kids, or dancing around your bedroom after work. If you find something that you like, incorporate it into your daily workout.

Research shows that people who are active in little ways the entire day burn more calories and are generally healthier than those who exercise for 30 to 60 minutes and then sit at a computer, says cardiologist and Prevention advisor Arthur Agatston, MD.

28 Days to a Healthier Heart

Heart Disease

Lower heart disease risk by 92% with a simple change each day

Heart Health Day 13: Start or End Your Day with Stretching

Flexibility may be key to heart health: Adults over age 40 who were the most limber had 30% less stiffness in the arteries than less-bendy participants in a recent Japanese study. Stretching for 10 to 15 minutes a day may keep arteries pliable; they may be affected by the elasticity of the muscles and tissue that surround them. Try some gentle yoga moves to improve your flexibility.

28 Days to a Healthier Heart

Heart Disease

Lower heart disease risk by 92% with a simple change each day

Heart Health Day 10: Take a 20-Minute Walk

Just 2.5 hours of exercise a week (that’s a little more than 20 minutes a day) could reduce heart attacks by one-third, prevent 285,000 deaths from heart disease in the United States alone, and practically eliminate type 2 diabetes. Wow!

28 Days to a Healthier Heart

Heart Disease

Lower heart disease risk by 92% with a simple change each day

Heart Health Day 9: Make Nuts Your Go-To Snack

Studies have found that those who eat more than 5 ounces of nuts a week are one-third less likely to have either heart disease or a heart attack. Just don’t overdo it — nuts are high in fat and calories, which can pack on pounds if you inhale them by the fistful.

28 Days to a Healthier Heart

Heart Disease

Lower heart disease risk by 92% with a simple change each day

Heart Health Day 8: Make Room for Veggies

To get the 2 cups that nutritionists recommend you eat daily, aim to make vegetables 50% of your meals. Extra points for picking cruciferous vegetables such as kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage, which are a gold mine of antioxidants and other heart-saving phytochemicals.

Image Collection: Skin Problems

Medical- Medicine
Picture of Hammertoes

Picture of Hammertoes

A hammertoe is a toe that is bent because of a weakened muscle. The weakened muscle makes the tendons (tissues that connect muscles to bone) shorter, causing the toes to curl under the feet. Hammertoes can run in families. They can also be caused by shoes that are too short. Hammertoes can cause problems with walking and can lead to other foot problems, such as blisters, calluses, and sores. Splinting and corrective footwear can help in treating hammertoes. In severe cases, surgery to straighten the toe may be necessary.

28 Days to a Healthier Heart

Heart Disease

Lower heart disease risk by 92% with a simple change each day

Heart Health Day 7: Start Your Morning With Juice

Orange juice contains folic acid that helps lower your levels of homocysteine, an amino acid linked to a higher heart attack risk. Grape juice is loaded with flavonoids and resveratrol, both potent antioxidants that may discourage red blood cells from clumping together and forming an artery-blocking clot. Choose 100% fruit juices to limit excess sugar.

28 Days to a Healthier Heart

Heart Disease

Lower heart disease risk by 92% with a simple change each day

Heart Health Day 6: Feast on Fish

Meat’s saturated fat will clog your arteries. On the other hand, fish such as salmon and anchovies are loaded with the omega-3 fatty acids that will help your heart maintain a steady rhythm. Having even one serving of fish high in omega-3s a week could reduce your risk of death from a heart attack by 52%!

Try these 10 fast fish recipes for salmon, tilapia, and more

28 Days to a Healthier Heart

Heart Disease

Lower heart disease risk by 92% with a simple change each day

Heart Health Day 5: Fiber Up Your Diet

Studies show that the more fiber you eat, the less likely you are to have a heart attack. Load up on whole grain breads and cereals that contain whole wheat, wheat bran, and oats. Toss beans into casseroles, soups, and salads. Aim for at least 25 to 35 g of fiber a day.

Get a printable shopping list of high-fiber foods with our Fiber Up Food Finder

Get Healthy High Fiber Recipes

28 Days to a Healthier Heart

Heart Disease

Lower heart disease risk by 92% with a simple change each day

Heart Health Day 2: Scan Food Labels for Saturated Fat

Adults who read food labels and nutrition facts slash twice as many calories from fat as those who don’t give them a look, according to one study. When it comes to heart health, that’s important: Don’t let fat exceed 30% percent of your calories. And more important, make most of your fat the healthy monounsaturated (from olive oil, nuts, dark chocolate, avocado) and polyunsaturated (from salmon, flaxseed, walnuts) kinds.

Limit saturated fat intake to 7% of your total calories (for a 1,600-calorie diet, that’s about 12 g a day). And avoid trans fats whenever possible; they should comprise 1% of your daily calories, or less than 2 g a day. (Look for “hydrogenated” on ingredient lists; trans fats are most often found in cookies, crackers, baked goods, and other processed foods.) Both of these fats raise levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.

28 Days to a Healthier Heart

Heart Disease

Lower heart disease risk by 92% with a simple change each day

Natural Cures for Heart Health

Did you know that more than 41 million women in America have heart disease? And that more women than men will die from it? In fact, it’s the leading health problem that kills women (not cancer — a common myth).

But the good news is that just five lifestyle guidelines — moderate alcohol, a healthy diet, daily exercise, normal body weight, and not smoking — can cut your heart attack risk by a whopping 92%, according to a Swedish study of more than 24,000 women. Incorporating just the first two into your routine cuts your risk by more than half.

The 28 tips that follow are designed to help you get started. Try one a day for a month, and then stick with as many as you can for the long haul.

Heart Attack Prevention

Heart Disease

Heart attack prevention depends on monitoring and modifying certain risk factors. These risk factors are interrelated. Each of us may have one or more risk factors. If we make moderate change in one area of life, we may reduce other risk factors at the same time.

Keep blood cholesterol levels in check.

–Everyone adult should know what his or her cholesterol level is.

–According to the National Cholesterol Education Program guidelines, if your cholesterol level is greater than 240 mg/dL or if the level of bad cholesterol (LDL) is above 130 mg/dL, aggressive measures should be taken to lower it.

–If you can’t lower your levels through diet alone, medications can help.

–Lipid- and cholesterol-lowering drugs such as atorvastatin (Lipitor), cerivastatin (Baycol [removed from US market 8/8/01]), and pravastatin (Pravachol) can reduce the rate of progression of coronary heart disease and also reduce repeat heart attacks. They work by lowering cholesterol and modifying the inner lining of your arteries.

Eat a well-balanced diet.

–Avoid eating large amounts of fat and cholesterol in your diet because these can accelerate the progression of hardening and clogging of coronary arteries.

–A well-balanced diet is good not only for those with high cholesterol but also for everyone. It helps to control cholesterol level as well as weight.

–The American Heart Association recommends that the maximum number of calories from fat be less than 30% of total calories.

Limit the amount of fast food you eat.

–Most fast food is very high in fat, even the salads and other so-called “healthy” foods.

–This may not be convenient but may provide significant benefit in the long run.

Drink alcohol in moderation, if at all.

–Although some research suggests that alcohol can help protect against heart disease, limit your intake to 1-2 drinks per day.

–Larger amounts can increase blood pressure, cause heart rhythm disturbances, and damage the heart muscle or liver.

Stop smoking.

–Quitting smoking is the single best lifestyle change you can make.

–Passive smoking, smoking cigars, or chewing tobacco are also dangerous to health.

–Quitting is difficult for most people. Ask your health care provider for advice and support.

Increase your physical activity.

–Exercise helps to lower the blood pressure, increase the level of good cholesterol (HDL), and control excess weight.

–Start slowly if you need to, but try to reach the goal of at least 30 minutes of endurance exercise 3-5 times a week. Such exercises include walking, swimming, biking, and aerobics.

–Almost everyone can take part in some form of physical activity.

–Before beginning an exercise program, talk to your health care provider.

Lose extra weight.

–Being overweight puts extra strain on the heart and blood vessels.

–A high-fiber, low-fat diet and regular exercise can help you lose weight and keep it off.

–Many diets are promoted by people with self-interest. Some of these may be unsafe.

–Get advice from your health care provider before starting any nontraditional weight loss program.

–Avoid “diet pills” (such as Fen-Phen). Some of these have been found to cause heart valve disease or other dangerous conditions in some users.

–“Natural” weight-loss products such as ephedrine can be very dangerous.