Summer is the best time to adopt healthy heart habits that can range from increasing Omega-3 fatty acids by grilling fish to socializing to reduce stress. Take advantage of the wonderful Michigan weather to keep your heart healthy this summer, and for seasons to come, by adopting these lifestyle tips that researchers suggest improve heart health.
1. Enjoy Outdoor Workouts
Early-morning workouts are a wonderful way to get the exercise you need for optimal heart health while enjoying the beautiful sights and sounds of the season. Whether it’s brisk walking, running, or biking, “green exercise” — physical activity in natural settings — has truly remarkable health benefits, ranging from lower blood pressure and a healthier heart rate to brighter moods and improved sleep.
2. Grill ‘Er Up – With Fish
Eating oily fish — such as salmon, tuna, or herring — twice a week, as recommended by the American Heart Association, cuts risk for fatal heart disease by 36%! Rich in omega-3 fatty acids and low in calories, grilled fish is an easy, delicious choice for summer cookouts. Toss a few skewers of cubed vegetables on the grill as well and you’ll have a perfect summer cookout to enjoy with family and friends.
3. Eat Healthy Fats, NOT Trans Fats
We need fats in our diet, including saturated, polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats. One fat we don’t need is trans fat, which is known to increase your risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke over a lifetime. This is because trans fat clogs your arteries by raising your bad cholesterol levels (LDL) and lowering your good cholesterol levels (HDL). By cutting them from your diet, you improve the blood flow throughout your body. So, what are trans fats? They are industry-produced fats often used in packaged baked goods, snack foods, margarines and fried fast foods to add flavor and texture.
4. Fruits, Vegetables and Healthy Arteries
There’s no better time in Michigan to enjoy fresh fruit and vegetables, preferably locally grown. Get out to a local farmer’s market for your best bet on heart-healthy produce. Research shows that these foods contain different classes of phytonutrients, natural components in plants that may reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Many fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants and ultimately can help reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, a buildup of fat, cholesterol and other substances on inner walls of arteries. The American Heart Association recommends at least 4.5 cups per day of fruits and vegetables as part of a healthy lifestyle that can help you avoid risks for heart disease and stroke.
Drink plenty of water before, during and after physical activity, or any time you’re out in the sun, to avoid dehydration. For low-calorie flavor, add slices of your favorite fruits such as melon, oranges, berries or even cucumber or mint to a pitcher of water and refrigerate for two hours. Not only does that prevent dehydration, but it can also help you maintain a healthy weight, according to a new study of nearly 10,000 people. The researchers found that people who are inadequately hydrated are more likely to be overweight than those who drank ample water and ate fruits and veggies with high water content.
Research shows that people who socialize, exchange thoughts, share worries and enjoy a good laugh with friends enjoy lower stress levels and tend to stay more relaxed. So take advantage of summer to socialize with your favorite friends and family members, whether it’s for a day at the beach, cycling trails, or a backyard bbq for a “chillin’ and grillin'” session.
7. But…Get Enough Sleep
Don’t get so carried away with the socializing that you neglect your sleep! Sleep is an essential part of keeping your heart healthy. If you don’t sleep enough, you may be at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease no matter your age or other health habits. One study looking at 3,000 adults over the age of 45 found that those who slept fewer than six hours per night were about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night. Researchers believe sleeping too little causes disruptions in underlying health conditions and biological processes, including blood pressure and inflammation.