Striving to Prevent Heart Disease

Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States! Even the most active athletes have to abide by certain rules in order to stave off this dreaded killer. No one is exempt from these rules!

Exercise is Vital for a Strong Heart

Regular exercise is very important for building a strong heart and to help keep it strong. The best kinds of exercises for developing and maintaining good cardiovascular health are those that provide an aerobic workout. Aerobic workouts include activities that can be sustained for long periods of time without experiencing too much fatigue, as a result of the body’s ability to deliver and utilize oxygen efficiently. Performing aerobic exercise with enough intensity and for extended periods of time will raise the heart rate, allowing your heart muscle to be worked sufficiently to increase your cardiovascular health and reduce your risk of heart disease.

Examples of aerobic exercises include walking, jogging, bicycling, hiking, cross-country skiing, and swimming. Ideally, a minimum of 30 minutes of some sort of aerobic activity daily should be incorporated into your lifestyle. But, any exercise is better than no exercise, at all. (Seek the advice of your physician before beginning any exercise program.)

Exercise is Not Enough – Watch What You Eat

When it comes to keeping your heart healthy, regular exercise is extremely important. However, it simply is not enough! The kinds of food that you consume daily play a vital role in heart health, as well.

What kinds of foods should you eat in your efforts to lower your risk of heart disease? And, what kinds of foods should you avoid?

One healthy choice to consider is eating fish a few times per week, instead of eating lots of meats that are high in saturated fat. The best fish to eat are those which are highest in essential omega-3 fats, such as salmon and tuna. Fish is also a good source of protein.

It is important to limit your intake of foods that are high in saturated fat, such as greasy hamburgers, fatty cheeses, and ice cream. No more than 10 percent of your daily calories should come from saturated fats, according to the American Heart Association. Too many saturated fats in your diet can lead to clogged arteries and high cholesterol levels. Some fat in your diet is necessary, however.

Try to make the bigger percentage of your daily fat intake monounsaturated fats, such as canola oil or olive oil, which seem to be more heart-healthy than saturated and polyunsaturated fats. And, limit your total daily fat intake to a maximum of 30 percent of your daily calorie intake.

Other dietary measures to take towards preventing heart disease include eating sufficient amounts of foods rich in soluble fiber, such as oats, beans, and split peas. According to diet expert, Nancy Clark, soluble fiber helps lower cholesterol levels. Also, it’s a good idea to substitute low-fat or skim milk for whole milk and cream. The main thing to remember is that balance in your diet is the key to optimal health!

Of course, genetics play a big role in one’s health. Some people are genetically predisposed to be at high risk of developing heart disease. For these people, it’s very important to monitor cholesterol levels. And, if you’re healthy and over 20, it’s a good idea to have your cholesterol levels checked at least once every five years.

Your HDL (good cholesterol) level should be at least 25 percent of your total cholesterol level, according to Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook. “Because exercise tends to boost HDL, active people often have a high percent of this good cholesterol. Their total cholesterol may be higher than that of a sedentary person. But as long as 25 percent of it is HDL, these individuals have a lower risk of heart problems. The higher the HDL percent, the better.”

Keep exercising regularly! Eat a healthy, balanced diet! And, live long and prosper!