Over the past few decades, we’ve sifted through the top medical research to determine the most important steps you can take to keep your heart in tiptop shape.
We suggest adopting one of the following tips every two weeks so you can slowly build healthier habits. The good news? Each one can be done in under two hours and can add years to your life.
1. Get your omega-3s.
The list of benefits from omega-3 fatty acids keeps going and going and going. These anti-inflammatory oils are crucial for long-term heart health.
We recommend the three-by-three rule: three 3-ounce servings a week of salmon or trout. And make sure you get 900 mg of omega-3s a day through diet or supplements.
It’s Time to Take Care of Your Heart
2. Support your partner.
Research shows having a healthy marriage is good for your heart. One study using CT scans showed that those who felt they had a supportive spouse had less calcium buildup in their arterial walls, meaning they were at lower risk of having heart troubles. Couples who were ambivalent about how supportive their spouses were exhibited higher calcium levels in their vessels. Though many of these studies use married couples as their subjects, the findings extend beyond the bounds of matrimony. Strong support systems always make you healthier.
3. Show some resistance twice a week.
In addition to walking 10,000 steps a day, you also want to set aside time to do a short resistance routine twice a week. Aim to do exercises that target your largest muscle groups, such as your legs, back and core.
4. Get your waist to half of your height or your BMI under 30.
Avoiding excessive weight gain (especially visceral fat near your belly button) is crucial for keeping your heart free of inflammation.
5. Know your blood pressure and do everything it takes to get it near 115/75.
Change what you are doing (including your medications and diet), and keep assessing until your numbers are low, because blood pressure elevation is a major contributor to coronary heart disease.
6. Know your LDL cholesterol level and keep it low.
When something like smoking or unhealthy food damages the inner lining of your arterial walls, it creates a sort of nick in the blood vessels, causing your body to send in lousy LDL cholesterol to try to patch up that nick—sort of like spackling over a nail hole in the wall. As that plaster builds and becomes inflamed, it turns into plaque and clogs the blood vessel to the point where either blood slows or can’t get through. Do what you can (through diet, exercise or medication) to keep your LDL cholesterol number under 70.
7. Enjoy an infrared sauna for 20 minutes four times a week.
Some limited studies have found that spending time in an infrared sauna (it’s much cooler than a traditional sauna) can reduce chronic pain, including of arthritis, normalize blood pressure and improve congestive heart failure.