(BlackDoctor.org) — Protecting your heart isn’t always our number one priority – but it should be. Heart disease is the number one killer of African American women, and African Americans are at greater risk of heart disease than any other ethnic group.
Instead of simply focusing on health numbers that are easy to measure such as weight, focus your attention on these seven tips to boost your heart health and prevent a deadly disease.
1. Be More Active. Lack of exercise is on the American Heart Association’s list of major risk factors for heart disease. Some of the other risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking, and high blood cholesterol.
Exercise is not only a weapon against heart disease; it reduces the risk of breast cancer, obesity, colon cancer, stress, depression and anxiety.
The average person should exercise 3 to 5 times a week for 30 at moderate intensity, but just by adding an additional 30 minutes of everyday activity such as taking the stairs instead of an elevator or biking to work, you can achieve significant health benefits. For best results, incorporate weight training into your exercise routine 2 to 3 times a week. Resistance training with resistance bands or light to moderate weight lifting builds muscle, helps decrease body fat and improves your cholesterol levels.
2. Keep Inflammation In Check. Keep inflammation at bay by increasing your intake of fish, chicken and vegetable protein such as beans.
Red meats such as steak and hamburgers should be limited to a couple of times a month because of their high saturated fat content.
Having a good balance of protein, carbohydrate and health fat will help promote the production of anti-inflammatory compounds known as eicosanoids. Eicosanoids help prevent hardening of the arteries.
3. Spice It Up. Enhance your meals with garlic, ginger and onions whenever possible. These herbs are known to be beneficial for circulation.
4. Limit Your Sodium & Increase Your Potassium. Increasing your intake of potassium while limiting sodium can reduce your risk of stroke and heart attack. Potassium-rich foods include bananas, cantaloupes and avocados.
5. Reduce The Bad Fats & Add More Good Fats. Bad fats are those labeled saturated or hydrogenated, vegetable oil, corn oil, shortening, margarine and cottonseed oil, as well as those in red meat, dairy products and peanuts.
Healthy fats are fish oil, olive oil, canola oil, hemp oil, and coconut oil. Despite popular belief, using a small amount of real butter is better for your heart than margarine.
6. Give Soy A Chance. Soy products are very beneficial for heart health. Although controversial, they have been found useful in reducing cholesterol levels.
However, you should limit soy intake to once a day to avoid gas. If you find it triggers gas, bloating or other digestive discomfort, soy may not be for you.
7. Be Conscious of Cholesterol. The best foods for reducing cholesterol include garlic, oat bran, apple, flaxseed, turmeric and fiber from fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
Surprisingly, it’s probably the carbohydrates in your diet that are raising your cholesterol, not the fats.
So limit your consumption of white processed flours, pastries, cakes, sugary candies, and deserts to no more than once a week.
In addition to all of the above tips, also make sure to visit your doctor for an annual exam – this includes a cholesterol check.
By Kelly Taylor, BDO Contributing Writer