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Heart Healthy Living: Getting "Heart Smart"

Updated on December 11, 2014

The Keys To Heart Healthy Living

Everyone (including children) can benefit from heart healthy living. And since heart disease is the number one killer among both men and women, especially in the United States, it definitely pays to get "heart smart."

Though we all realize that proper exercise and eating nutrient-dense healthy foods help reduce the risk, we may not know which foods and which exercises are the best choices to battle this deadly disease head on.

Top 5 Heart Healthy Foods You Should Eat

Healthy Foods To Live By

Very often we hear news reports that one type of food is bad for us only to find out years later that it is not bad at all. With so many diet plans available today, it may be confusing to ascertain what foods are more targeted towards a healthier heart.

Here are five heart-friendly foods that have been touted for decreasing cholesterol and triglyceride levels in the body:

  • Leafy Green Vegetables: Broccoli, spinach, kale, escarole and other leafy green vegetables are very high in vitamins, minerals, and iron. One serving of vegetables a day can dramatically reduce the incidence of heart disease.
  • Fresh Fruits: Among the most popular are blueberries. Known for its antioxidants (which are crucial in destroying free radicals in the body), blueberries are the number one fruit most recommended. It contains fiber and vitamin C. More importantly, it has been suggested that blueberries are also a brain food - that memory may be increased by having one serving of this fruit every day.
  • Fish: Omega-3 fatty acids are contained in many types of fish. Salmon is one of them. It is not only heart friendly, but it is high in protein which renders many health benefits. A serving of fish at least two times a week can go a long way to reduce the risk of heart disease.
  • Whole Grains: While we know that whole grain foods contribute to a decrease in cholesterol levels, it is also a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Whether you consume a daily helping of oatmeal or whole grain cereal - this food group is known for reducing the risk of heart disease.
  • Legumes (Beans): Soy beans, kidney beans, red beans, pinto beans, black beans and the like. Our fore-parents may have grown up on a diet of beans and escarole, and this simple and easy-to-prepare dinner was the source of fiber, vitamins, minerals, and cholesterol-lowering agents.

5 Foods To Limit Or Avoid . . . For A Healthy Heart

Decreasing Your Intake Of These Foods Can Do Wonders

Keeping good cholesterol high and bad cholesterol and triglycerides low is a daily process. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, protein, whole grains, and low fats are essential in decreasing the risk of heart disease.

But there are foods that are best avoided (or at least limited) in order to achieve this goal. They are:

  • Fast Foods: It is easy to understand why these foods contribute to high cholesterol levels. They contain high levels of saturated fats and trans fats. Trans fats are the most egregious since they contain hydrogenated oils. Moreover, they have been found to lower the HDL (good cholesterol) in the body.
  • Meats: Meats such as hamburgers, bacon, and other packaged or deli meats contain high amounts of saturated fats. Substituting these meats with turkey burgers, turkey sausage, and other lean meat products can make all the difference in reducing cholesterol level and thus reducing risk to the heart.
  • Trans Fats: This is probably the most serious offender as regards cholesterol and heart disease. In fact, efforts are under way by manufacturers to eliminate this fat from their baked goods. However, not everyone has followed this lead and it is necessary, therefore, to check the label before you purchase particular products. These would include cookies, cakes, butter, and other food products that contain some form of fat content.
  • Oils: While pure olive and canola are known to have substantial heart-healthy benefits, their counterparts - coconut and corn oil, are full of saturated fats. They are utilized in most fast food restaurants, as well as for home cooking. These are best avoided as they help increase the risk of heart disease.
  • Dairy: We know that saturated fats increase the LDL levels. Whole milk as well as other dairy products contain these saturated fats and have the same effect. In lieu of these products, it is highly recommended that 1% milk, skim milk, and low-fat dairy products are used to avoid high cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease.

The Benefits of Walking For A Healthier Heart

While the combination of diet and exercise is important to maintain a healthy body, it is exercise that offers the most bang for its buck because it is conducive to an individual's overall well-being.

Many people who are health-conscious may join gyms or purchase expensive equipment for home use. However, there is one type of exercise which is completely free, and that is walking. You can engage in walking anytime of the day, for as little or as long as you wish.

When a person is stressed, blood pressure rises, headaches can occur, and fatigue sets in. Walking is perhaps the best form of exercise that can not only reduce stress and lower blood pressure, but also release endorphins which exhilarate the mind and help bring you into a balanced state.

For example ... how many times have you been sitting at your desk at work and felt so stressed that it has caused back pain and other symptoms? If you took a walk at this point, even around the block, the blood pressure would decrease and you, in essence, would have "cleared your mind." The stress would no longer be felt and you could go back to your desk and continue with your work uninhibited.

Imagine, then, if you walked for thirty minutes a day - the results would reveal that your cholesterol decreased significantly, the blood pressure lowered, and you felt revitalized and clear of mind. More importantly, this form of exercise substantially reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Statistics show that more adults today live a more sedentary lifestyle than ever before. Thus, obesity has become a pandemic in our society and with it comes the increased risk of heart disease, stroke, and other illnesses.

If you have high cholesterol, one of the things your doctor may request is a blood test every three months to monitor the HDL (good cholesterol) and LDL (bad cholesterol), as well as the triglycerides (the fat contained in your body). While your LDL may be low, it is the HDL and triglycerides that are of the biggest concern.

Why? A high triglyceride level of 200 or more would indicate that you lack physical exercise and may be overweight. In addition, the blood test may show that your HDL is below 50, which is considered the normal range. The only way to increase the HDL and lower the triglycerides is through physical exercise.

In order to decrease the risk, walking is not only recommended but necessary. If you are not currently engaged in any physical activity, now is the time. Start slowly and work your way up. No one is saying you have to run a marathon, but if you want to avoid future health problems associated with your heart, walking is the first step.

Heart-Healthy Exercise (On DVD) - Yoga Moves Everyone Can Do

Yoga for the Rest of Us: Heart Healthy Yoga
Yoga for the Rest of Us: Heart Healthy Yoga

Two separate workouts, in this 90-minute program, are designed for total beginners and yoga experts alike. Make this your daily yoga routine aimed at improving your heart health as well as your overall health.


Keeping Your Children's Hearts Healthy


Two major components to ensure that children maintain a healthy heart are diet and exercise. With obesity now a pandemic in our society, the need to increase physical activity and develop healthy eating patterns is essential.

We all know the benefits of exercise. It can help to control weight, increase the good cholesterol, and reduce blood pressure as well as the risk of diabetes and other illnesses. It can also offer an inner balance and psychological well-being that instills confidence and self-esteem among children.

The American Heart Association offers a myriad of recommendations both for physical exercise and eating habits.

  • They recommend that children should engage in 30 minutes of exercise a day. This can be attained by using the entire 30 minutes of playful activity, or dividing the time into two or three periods in which the total 30 minutes is achieved.
  • In this day and age of fast food restaurants and on-the-go snacks, it is also important to present a diet regimen that is healthy , targeted, and provides the nutritional value children need to grow into healthy adults.
  • A diet low in sodium and trans fats is recommended as well as balanced meals including fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fiber, and protein. Low-fat and/or fat-free dairy products are also recommended.
  • Watching the calories . . . The total recommended calories consumed depend largely on the age of the child. For example, for very young children it is advised that 900 calories per day is sufficient. For teens, it is estimated that 1800 calories for girls and 2200 calories for boys is quite sufficient.
  • But the main factor in keeping children's heart healthy is to refrain from over-eating. This means time spent watching TV or playing video games can only contribute to a sedentary lifestyle later on.

Young children are nearly always on the go, and this is a good thing. However, as children mature and grow into their pre-teen and teen years, their level of activity may slow down.

Thus, any activity that the entire family can engage in will not only keep the children active, but will act as a preventative measure in avoiding any future health problems for all concerned.

5 Ways to Create Heart-Friendly Habits In Your Kids

At a time when obesity affects both adults and children, there are many ways to prevent this outcome by creating heart-friendly habits early in a child's life.

Here are five suggestions:

  1. Children learn from their parents. If we, as parents, practise a daily ritual of exercise and good nutrition, the children will follow our lead. Thus, being a good role model for our children is essential.
  2. Family activities can help to increase physical activity. This could be engaging in a daily routine of walking, or spending at lest thirty minutes a day playing in the back yard, or teaching our children to swim. Whatever we do, physical activity is a beneficial and preventative measure that will serve to maintain not only our good health, but that of our children.
  3. Monitor the amount of time spent on video games and computers. With video games and computers becoming the source of many hours spent sedentary, it's a good idea to limit the amount of time spent on these activities. Moreover, this will also prevent children from excessively consuming snacks while engaged in these activities.
  4. Children who do have a problem with their weight need encouragement. Developing a positive self-image increases the child's self-esteem and may lead to their own determination and discovery that physical exercise and diet is a path well chosen.
  5. Watch the quality of snacks. While we all love snacks, having too many around the home encourages children to choose these unhealthy foods instead of grabbing an apple or other nutritious snacks. There are plenty of snack recipes online that are healthy and nutritious. Moreover, having the children help with the preparation will give them more incentive to consume the snack since they played a role in preparing it.

Obesity has become a pandemic in our society and has led to many illnesses and diseases such as diabetes and cancer. As parents, our role is to ensure that our children lead healthy lives. This includes safeguarding their physical, mental, and emotional well-being.

Needless to say, exercise and a proper diet are conducive to a healthy lifestyle as well as a healthy heart. Heart-friendly habits, when properly incorporated at the outset, is a preventative measure to ensure the health of the entire family is maintained.

Heart Attack Signs You Should Not Ignore

Be Aware Of Signs Of A Possible Heart Attack

There are several warning signs to indicate that a person may be having a heart attack. Understanding the warning signs is critical in getting help quickly.

It is important to note that signs can sometimes be different for men and women.

  • It may begin with discomfort in the chest such as pressure or pain.
  • One may also experience pain in the back, jaw, stomach, or in one or both arms.
  • The heart attack may cause shortness of breath or perhaps sweating, dizziness, and nausea. These symptoms usually occur in men.
  • In women, while chest pain is one signal, shortness of breath, back or jaw pain, and nausea accompanied by vomiting may also be clear warning signs they are having a heart attack.
  • There are other signals that may be altogether different from one person to another. Although chest pain is the common denominating factor, there may be other signs including profuse sweating, a feeling of fatigue, stomach pain, headache or toothache.

Unfortunately, in some individuals, the symptoms may appear and then disappear suddenly. The pain may be attributed to indigestion or heartburn. Some may even think the pain is caused by undue stress.

But the most alarming statistic is that some heart attacks often go virtually unnoticed (silent heart attacks) . . . that is, there are no symptoms that are generally associated with a heart attack and the individual may feel fine one moment and go into cardiac arrest the next. This is considered the most serious type of heart attack.

Heart attacks are life-threatening and therefore it is vital for anyone who displays any of these symptoms to seek emergency care immediately. This cannot be stressed enough. There have been cases where a person with one or more of these symptoms, albeit mild in nature, goes to the hospital and has a heart attack as he or she is being tested.

If you or a family member complains about chest pain or shows any of the aforementioned signs, take them to the hospital and/or call for assistance immediately. The longer one waits, the higher the chances of permanent damage to the heart.

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    • ajgodinho profile image

      Anthony Godinho 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Loved this lens packed with healthy information for both, adults and kids. I'm always happy to see proponents of healthy living and am glad to have come across this well-crafted lens. Great work as always! **Blessed by a Squid-Angel**

    • photofk3 profile image

      photofk3 7 years ago

      Awesome lens with a huge amount of useful information. Thank you.

    • Stazjia profile image

      Carol Fisher 7 years ago from Warminster, Wiltshire, UK

      This is good information for everybody because we ignore it at our peril. Blessed by an Angel.

    • seashell2 profile image

      seashell2 8 years ago

      Awesome lens.. 5*s!

    • profile image

      totalhealth 8 years ago

      you really have a nice and comprehensive lens on healthy living. it's a well deserved 5 stars.