1. Have Oatmeal For Breakfast
Oatmeal is packed with healthy nutrients including beta-glucan, a soluble fiber that keeps bad cholesterol at bay. Choose old-fashioned or steel-cut oatmeal over instant varieties for the biggest benefit. For a breakfast that packs a heart-boosting punch, combine your oats with ground flaxseed and antioxidant-packed berries.
2. Stop Smoking
Quit this habit and your heart will thank you. Big time. Smoking dramatically raises your risk of death from cardiovascular disease. But just a year after you stop, your chances of a smoking-related heart attack will be reduced by half. After 15 years, your likelihood of dying from a heart attack will be the same as someone who never smoked. Breaking an addiction is never easy. But a combination of counseling and medication to deal with withdrawal symptoms can help you succeed.
3. Walk a Little Every Day
Reams of studies show that regular exercise cuts your risk of heart disease and stroke. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity per day. But your body benefits just as much by doing it in 10-minute installments, so small changes like parking two blocks from the office will make a huge difference. Keep this in mind if a regular exercise program seems too daunting. For instance, 10 minutes of taking the stairs instead of the elevator, a brisk 10-minute walk in the morning and another in the evening adds up to your daily minimum.
4. Nibble on a Piece of Dark Chocolate
It’s true: Several small studies suggest dark chocolate could be good for your heart. The beneficial effects are likely due to chemicals in chocolate called flavonoids, which help arteries stay flexible. Other properties of the sweet stuff seem to make arteries less likely to clot and prevent “bad” LDL cholesterol from oxidizing, which makes it less likely to form plaque that can lead to heart attacks. Dark chocolate is also rich in magnesium and fiber. Steer clear of milk chocolate, which is high in butterfat and tends to raise cholesterol.
5. Go to Bed an Hour Earlier
A Harvard study of 70,000 women found that those who got less than seven hours of sleep had a slightly higher risk of heart disease. Researchers suspect lack of sleep increases stress hormones, raises blood pressure, and affects blood sugar levels. Keep your overall sleeping time to no more than nine hours, however. The same study found women who slept nine or more hours had a slightly increased risk of heart disease.