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Five ways to keep your heart healthy and strong


Last updated 2/18/2020 at 12:57am

Matthew J. Budoff, M.D., FACC, FAHA

Special to Village News

Do you find yourself planted behind a desk or stuck in the car for most of your day? Well, you are not alone. The average American adult now spends roughly 6.5 hours a day sitting – an increase of about an hour a day since 20071[1].

More time spent watching TV, scrolling through social media, and browsing online are to blame for this increase in sedentary behavior. For this reason, I often need to remind my patients that when you sit, you use less energy than you do when you stand or move.

Research has linked sitting for long periods of time with a number of health concerns, including abnormal cholesterol levels, excess body fat, obesity and increased blood pressure². These activities seem harmless enough at first, but they can add up quickly, and can significantly affect the health of your heart.

It is never too late to start taking care of your heart. Here are five ways you can keep your heart healthy and strong³:

Healthy-heart supplements: A healthy lifestyle can help protect your cardiovascular system and enhance circulation, but adding a heart smart supplement can give your arteries the extra protection they need, especially as you age. I have found that Aged Garlic Extract (AGE) may have the single best impact on heart health than any other known dietary supplement. My research suggests that it supports healthy blood pressure and reduces bad cholesterol levels, reduces plaque (buildup) in coronary arteries and improves the health of blood vessel walls ⁴ؘ͘⁵.

Watch what you eat: Eating lean meats, fruits and vegetables is great. But even healthy foods can be a problem if you are consuming two or three times what your portion size should be. Controlled portion size is an important consideration for heart health. Keep lean protein portions to about the size of your palm. A quick way to eat smaller portion sizes is to use a smaller plate. The average dinner plate clocks in at 12 inches, so switching to a slightly smaller plate, like 8 inches, can help you control your portions.

Clock in those hours: Sleep is very important for a healthy heart. Lack of sleep puts you at greater risk for cardiovascular and coronary health disease. During sleep your body repairs itself, so you do not want to skimp on it. Set a bedtime and stick to it. Aim for 6-8 hours of sleep per night.

Move around: Consistent exercise is a great way to lower your risk of heart disease. Just as exercise strengthens other muscles in your body, it helps your heart muscle become more efficient and better able to pump blood throughout your body. Try exercising for 30 minutes or more on most days. This can help to improve your cholesterol and lower your blood pressure. It has been shown that exercising can also improve your brain health, delaying or stopping the onset of dementia.

Brush and floss: This might sound unrelated to heart health, but you’d be surprised. Several studies show that your dental health and cardiac health are intertwined⁶. The bacteria in your mouth, when released into the bloodstream, can increase inflammation and lead to hardening of the arteries, which, in turn, can eventually lead to heart attack and stroke. Make sure to brush at least twice each day, and floss once.

I chose the heart-healthy tips above for a reason, they are very achievable. Living a heart healthy lifestyle doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive, anyone can do it by making a few small tweaks in their everyday routine. Start moving and practice these five hacks every day to prioritize your heart health.

Matthew J. Budoff, M.D., FACC, FAHA, is Professor of Medicine, David Geffen School of Medicine, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. He is Program Director and Director of Cardiac CT, Division of Cardiology, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, California. He is also Endowed Chair of Preventive Cardiology, Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute.

He is at the forefront of the medical community’s efforts to develop early detection methods for cardiac disease, the No. 1 cause of death in the U.S. Budoff works on at least 20 active medical research trials at any given time, and is a frequent lecturer on topics of cardiology at symposia, congresses and annual conferences on every continent. He has written or co-written over 800 research papers, seven books and 45 book chapters.









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