Healthy Heart Vows

Our heart is a vital organ that pumps precious oxygen and nutrients to our cells. Our very existence depends on the health of our heart. Nevertheless, some of our habits are very harmful to our hearts and are probably the reason cardiovascular disease is the world's number one killer leading to more than 75 million deaths each year. That is more than the population of France. The good news is there are healthy changes we can make as a gift to our heart.

I Promise to Move
You probably already know that exercise is good for you, but it may be as effective as some medicines. Researchers reported in the British Medical Journal that there was no detectable difference between exercise and some drugs for patients with coronary artery disease. In fact, exercise was found to be more effective than anticoagulants and anti-platelet medicines in the prevention of stroke. If a grueling session at the gym doesn't sound appealing, you're in luck because exercise doesn't have to be that way. Most people can benefit from 30 minutes of physical activity 5 times a week. You can make it social or something you really enjoy like going dancing, having a hike with friends, or taking a walk through your neighborhood. Just taking extra 2,000 steps a day reduces your risk of heart attack or stroke by 8%.

I Will Not Smoke
Smoking is not just a problem for our lungs but actually leads to 20% of deaths due to cardiovascular death. Because nicotine in cigarettes damages cells that line arteries and other blood vessels, it is a major cause of coronary artery disease. Nicotine also decreases oxygen to the heart, increases blood pressure and increases blood clotting. Even occasional or light smoking damages the heart and blood vessels. If you don't smoke, constant contact with second hand smoke is just as lethal to your heart. The good news if you do smoke, quitting now can reduce your risks of such heart complications like sudden cardiac death. No matter how much you smoked or how long, you will benefit from quitting.

I Vow to Maintain a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight is not just a vanity issue but an important factor in heart health. It was once believed that being overweight was related to heart disease now more studies support that it is actually a cause. This is likely due to two reasons: the extra strain weight puts on the demand of the heart and blood vessels and the increase in body fat, which affects blood lipid levels. It is recommended to maintain a Body Mass Index (BMI) between 18-25 for heart health. This is not a perfect measure of obesity as it doesn't take into account muscle mass, gender and ethnicity. A better estimate is the waist-to-hip ratio with an ideal measurement for women being less than 35 inches and less than 40 inches for men. If you do need to lose weight, choosing a plan with a dietician, physician, or naturopath for gradual weight loss you can stick with is key.

I Pledge to Eat Nuts
Besides being an easy protein and fiber rich snack, nuts are little containers of heart healthy nutrients. All nuts contain heart-healthy omega-3 fats and some like walnuts also have high amounts of alpha linoleic acid (ALA). Research has suggested that ALA may help heart arrhythmias and reduce inflammation and oxidation in the arteries. Vitamin E, an antioxidant known to protect the body against free radicals, is another important heart nutrient found in nuts. Nuts also contain magnesium, which is essential to keeping blood pressure normal and heart rhythm steady. You don't have to eat a lot of nuts to reap the benefits. Some studies have shown that eating more than three servings of nuts a week reduces the risk of death due to cardiovascular disease by 55%. A serving is 1oz, which is the equivalent of 1⁄4 cup (roughly the size of a shallow handful) or 2 tbsp of nut butter. Most nuts are great, but your best bets for heart health are almonds, walnuts, and pistachios.