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6 strategies for a healthy heart

Heart disease has always been seen as a men’s problem. But according to Women’s College Hospital, women are 10 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than any other illness. But the good news is that a healthy lifestyle and some solid knowledge about risk factors and symptoms can go a long way to prevent it; here are a few tips to help you keep your heart in good shape: 

Get moving. A healthy body weight cuts down your risk. Make exercise a part of your routine – try at least 30 minutes of moderate activity five times a week. Do something you enjoy; whether it’s dancing, martial arts or weight training, you’re more likely to do it if it’s fun. 

Tip: Work out with a buddy. Studies have shown that exercising with a friend makes you more likely to stick with it. 

Eat right. Stay healthy with a nutritious diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and lean proteins. Do your best to avoid sugars, saturated fats and highly processed foods. 

Tip: Hungry? Grab a handful of walnuts — they’ll fill you up, and they’re full of omega-3 fatty acids, which help decrease inflammation in the arteries. 

Manage your stress. Cortisol, the hormone produced by stress, makes your arteries more vulnerable to plaque buildup. Do whatever it takes to relax. Spend time with friends, practice yoga, go for a walk, watch a movie that makes you laugh, or just close your eyes for a few minutes and breathe. 

Tip: Exercise is a proven stress-buster. Next time you’re feeling frazzled, hit the gym or take a walk. 

Get enough shuteye. People who sleep less than seven hours a night have higher levels of cortisol —and are at higher risk for heart disease. Seven to eight hours is ideal. 

Tip: Cut down on caffeine (avoid it after lunch if you have trouble sleeping) and practice a wind-down routine that has you relaxed and sleepy when it’s time for bed.

Stop smoking. This is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease — quitting lowers your risk dramatically. And cutting out your exposure to second-hand smoke is just as important; if your family and friends smoke, your risk goes up. 

Tip: Quitting cold turkey is tough. Talk to your doctor about therapies that can help make it easier. 

Know your body. You can’t control risk factors like your age, gender, family history and ethnicity. But being aware of those risks can help you watch for early symptoms — and get treatment when you need it. 

Tip: Talk to your doctor to see if you’re at risk for heart disease. 

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