10 tips for a healthy heart

To reduce your risk of heart disease, you don’t have to become vegetarian or vegan. Simply reducing your intake of foods high in saturated fats and eating fewer, and leaner, cuts of meat will help.

However, should you adopt a stricter plant-based diet, make sure that it is rich in nutrients, fibre and omega-3 fatty acids. Being vegan or vegetarian can be unhealthy if your diet lacks sufficient amounts of the above-mentioned items.

A healthy plant-based diet should consist of foods that are, as much as possible, unprocessed and close to nature. Whether your diet is vegan, vegetarian or omnivore, your food choices among the food groups should be varied and balanced.

Here are 10 tips for a healthy heart:

1. Maintain a healthy weight for your body type.

2. Be physically active at least 30 minutes a day.

3. Avoid or reduce sugary drinks and nutrient-poor junk foods.

4. Base your diet on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, seeds and legumes.

5. Limit your consumption of red meat (beef, pork, lamb) and opt for lean cuts.

6. Avoid processed meat and foods processed with salt (sodium).

7. Limit your intake of alcohol and don’t smoke or chew tobacco.

8. Reduce or eliminate unnecessary stress, find time to relax and maintain a positive outlook.

9. Consume foods rich in flavonoids, such as cacao nibs. Flavonoids are anti-inflammatory antioxidants that help lower blood pressure and LDL (bad cholesterol), thus protecting arteries in your heart and brain.

10. Don’t skip breakfast as this may increase the risk of atherosclerosis. Skipping meals may have negative effects on appetite-regulating hormones, blood sugar and insulin levels.

Image courtesy of Brandon Knoll

Julie Zimmer

Julie has extensive experience in nursing practice and education in a wide range of fields from intensive/coronary care, to medical-surgical to community and public health. Julie has Bachelor Degrees in Psychology and Nursing, and a Master’s Degree in Community Health Nursing Education. She has taught in faculties of nursing and in various communities in Toronto, Canada and in Geneva, Switzerland, and is a consultant to the International Council of Nurses (ICN). Julie also has years of experience teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) in addition to coordinating an English department in a Swiss private school.

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