When it comes to declarations of love won and love lost, nothing receives as much attention as the human heart. Even before Shakespeare extolled the passions of the heart, poets, storytellers, and singers throughout the world located our deepest affections in this mighty two-chambered organ, but its importance is much more than just metaphorical.
As heart disease continues its dark reign as the leading cause of death in the United States, it’s clear that maintaining a healthy heart is one of the simplest ways to increase your odds of living longer and living better. Improve your overall health every day with any one of these eight easy ways to be good to your heart.
1. Drink Tea
The most popular beverage in the world, drinking a couple cups of tea each day, provided it’s the right kind and is part of an already heart-healthy diet, has been linked to improvements in heart health. From lowering cholesterol to improving how blood vessels function, the antioxidants present in some teas and herbal brews go to bat for your heart almost as soon as you start drinking it. For positive results, drink a few cups each day of hawthorn berry tea, green tea, or hibiscus flower.
2. Go for a Walk
Exercise of any kind is good for your heart, but the good news is that you don’t have to be overly ambitious about. A brisk 20-minute walk once a day is really all you need to keep your heart in great shape. Take a walk over your lunch hour or meet a friend for a walk after work instead of grabbing a cocktail. Your heart health will improve, and because exercise elevates your mood, you’ll feel better, too.
3. Skip the Cigarettes
Everyone knows smoking is bad for them, but if you’re still doing it, anyway, consider this: People who smoke increase their odds of getting heart disease two to four times over those who do not. In fact, about one in five heart disease deaths are related to smoking. For better heart health, look into a program to stop smoking now.
4. Eat Nuts
Just 12 walnuts a day can reduce arterial inflammation, and, if you’d like a different variety, they’re almost all bound to be heart healthy is one way or another. Peanuts, almonds, and macadamia nuts all contain plant sterols, which work to block the absorption of cholesterol by our bodies. You don’t have to eat handfuls of them either. Oils made from these nuts are incredibly high in plant sterols, so just cook with a nut oil, and reap the heart benefits.
5. Listen to Music
Music isn’t just capable of soothing the savage beast; it can also lower blood pressure, boost your mood, and otherwise transform both feelings and overall health. Whether you like jazz, old-school country, hip hop, or reggae, listen to music every day for a wealth of benefits. Even heavy metal has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress in people who listen to it. Apparently, so long as what’s playing is something you like, you’ll feel better and actually be better.
6. Cook With Olive Oil
Olive oil is a delicious oil to use in salad dressings, baking, dipping sauces, and some cooking — so long as you don’t heat it above its smoke point of 325 to 375 degrees Fahrenheit — and it’s remarkably good for your heart as well. Consider it some type of superhero oil, because the way it supports heart health is by actually offering protection to red blood cells, protecting them from the damage that can be wrought be aging, pollution, stress, and the like.
7. Use Your Hands
Believe it or not, just using your hands is a great way to lower stress. Whether you knit scarves, mate socks, or work on jigsaw puzzles with a friend, the work of using both our hands is a great way to get your mind to loosen its grip. Stress is one of the biggest indicators of stroke and heart attack, so anything you can do to reduce it is a boon for heart health.
Laughing out loud — literally — isn’t just a fun thing to do, it’s also a great way to help out your heart. Scientists at the University of Maryland’s Medical Center found that when people laugh audibly, it relieves stress that does damage to blood vessel lining while also improving overall blood flow. So, head out to the comedy club, or put on some “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” Your heart will thank you.
Heart health doesn’t have to involve a bunch of complicated tests and pharmaceuticals. Aim to do a few of these eight heart healthy tips each day, and you’ll be well on your way to a robust and happy heart.