96 ways to keep your heart healthy and strong

Print, email and share this comprehensive list of tips you need to know to ensure you’re heart healthy now, and for years to come.

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Photo by Istockphoto
Photo by Istockphoto

1. Substitute puréed prunes or applesauce for butter in baking recipes.

2. Exercise! Research shows top aerobic athletes tend to live five years longer.

3. Reduce your salt intake by replacing canned vegetables with frozen.

4. See the glass as half full. Positivity is linked with a stronger heart.

5. Pick potassium! This mineral helps balance out sodium levels (a major culprit in damaging our hearts).

6. Enjoy a square of 70 percent dark chocolate. It has potent antioxidant and anti-clotting properties.

7. Do you know the symptoms of high blood pressure? Trick question: There aren’t any! Have a pharmacist or doctor check yours this week.

8. Replace your desk chair with an exercise ball. It’s a great way to burn extra calories and increase core strength.

9. What motivates you to stay healthy? Write the reasons on sticky notes and post them at work and at home to remind and inspire you.

10. Learn to say no. Saying yes to everything can lead to stress and poor health.

11. Experiment with whole grains: Try hulled barley, teff, millet, buckwheat, quinoa and wheat bulgur or berries.

12. Go nuts! Studies find a handful five times per week helps decrease heart disease risk.

13. Keep your cool. When your temper rises, your blood pressure may also increase.

14. Serve lentils, beans or tofu as the main instead of meat. With a little seasoning they really shine!

15. Pick up a pedometer. Try adding 100 steps to your total every week.

16. Avoid added sugars. Flavour your coffee or tea with cinnamon instead.

17. Commit to fitness: Walk any distance that’s 10 minutes away or less.

18. Stock your fridge with low-fat or skim milk products.

19. Rent a romcom. Science links watching funny flicks with beneficial blood flow throughout your body.

20. Do what you love. A strong heart is emotionally and physically fit.

21. According to top heart docs, exercise is like sleep: you can’t store it up. Get up, get going!

22. Stretch it out! Flexible muscles mean flexible arteries.

23. LOL ASAP: Laughter really is the best medicine. It relieves stress and improves your immune system.

24. Start a new tradition this Thanksgiving. Make time for a walk with friends and family to enjoy the colours of fall.

25. Dine out right! Look for key words like baked, broiled, grilled, poached or steamed on the menu.

26. Lift weights: For every pound of muscle you build, you’ll burn an extra 10 calories each day.

27. Brighten a cold morning. Make a low-cal London Fog with Earl Grey tea, vanilla extract and steamed low-fat milk.

28. Big up on B vitamins — they raise good cholesterol by 15 to 35 percent.

29. Do a stress inventory. Take five minutes to notice where you hold stress: jaws, shoulders, neck. Now breathe, stretch, relax!

30. Schedule more dinners in. Families that dine  together make healthier choices together.

31. Let go of pressure and perfectionism. Relax, and take care of yourself.

32. Ditch that soda. A pop a day can add up to 15 pounds in a year!

33. Serve a bowl of low-sodium, broth-based soup.

34. Snack on raw vegetables instead of chips when you’re craving a little crunch.

35. Use smaller bowls and plates at home. Portion control protects your heart.

36. Moms-to-be who do low-impact exercise give babies a head start on heart health.

37. Stressed? Pick up a pen. Writing about stressful events can help you release negative emotions and feel better.

38. Create a stress-free bedroom. Lower the thermostat and try ear plugs and light-blocking curtains.

39. Sample new heart-healthy oils, like soybean, safflower and sesame.

40. Try an anytime, anywhere fitness break. Stash stretchbands and skipping ropes in your purse.

41. This week, have a cozy movie night. Serve low-fat cocoa and air-popped popcorn seasoned with Cajun spices.

42. Feeling stressed? Talk it out with a friend. It’ll make you feel better and keep unhealthy stress levels down!

43. Forget frying! Try steaming, broiling, or baking your food for healthier meals, as a first course. It fills you up without adding mega calories!

44. Toss some chia seeds on your salad for a hit of heart-healthy fibre and omega-3s.

45. Schedule a weekly workout date with a friend. Studies show you’ll lose more weight together!

46. Easy on the salt! Aim for no more than 2,300 mg a day (that’s one teaspoon).

47. Pump up the volume! Listening to music releases feel-good hormones.

48. Let go of anger: Holding on to frustration hurts your heart. Repeated bouts can thicken artery walls.

49. Smile! When you beam on the outside, you beam on the inside too. Research links happiness with strong hearts.

50. Replace screen time with face time. Limit TV to two hours a day.

51. Reach out to family and friends. Socializing is great for your heart!

52. Schedule relaxation into your week. Try tai chi, yoga, meditation or a quiet walk in the park.

53. Enjoy Fall’s bounty: Get some fennel, okra, beans, corn, shallots and late summer squash on your plate.

54. To make waiting less stressful, keep Sodoku puzzles, knitting or a book in your bag.

55. Curb cravings with healthy snacks: Low-fat cheese and grapes or celery, or a handful of nuts and a pear.

56. Leave the car at home! Try walking, cycling, or public transit to get where you need to go.

57. Window-shopping is good for you! When it’s miserable outside, hit the malls for 30 minutes of brisk walking.

58. Just because it’s margarine, doesn’t mean it’s heart-healthy. Check the label: It should be non-hydrogenated and trans fat free.

59. Move your feet with motivation: Sign up for a fun run or a charity walk for a good cause.

60. Can’t say no to a friend? Promise your BFF you’ll get active with her – you’ll be more likely to go!

61. Discover your city with a guided walking tour, or take an afternoon to explore a new neighbourhood on foot.

62. Get tested! Fifty percent of women have high cholesterol.

63. Fret less about the future. Excess anxiety may stress your heart.

64. Say thanks! Expressing gratitude reduces stress, which may help take extra strain off your heart.

65. Substitute lean turkey for ground beef. It has less saturated fat.

66. Add more colour to your plate. You can improve heart health immediately by upping your fruit and veg intake.

67. Visualize a healthier you. It’s the first step toward making lasting changes.

68. Measure your blood pressure at the pharmacy. Half of people who have high blood pressure don’t know it.

69. Purée extra vegetables into sauces and soups for a stealthy health boost!

70. Stick to low GI foods. They may cause fewer spikes in blood sugar, which means less strain on your heart.

71. Eat whole fruits, instead of drinking fruit juices, to get insoluble fibre.

72. Make it a habit when eating out: always take home a doggy bag.

73. Put yourself first. Stay smoke-free, eat right and exercise; these are some lifestyle changes that can reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke by up to 80 percent.

74. Relax. It’s good for your heart and soul.

75. Experiment with a new Indian dahl recipe. Legumes never tasted so good!

76. Healthy sex lives make for healthy hearts. A sexy session can be as good for your heart as a brisk walk.

77. Try tabbouleh! It’s a great way to get in more tasty whole grains.

78. Sample new spreads: Try peanut, hazelnut or almond butter on bread.

79. Join a community garden in your area. Gardening reduces stress and can burn 400 calories per hour!

80. Quit smoking — no butts about it! Smokers are three times more likely to die of heart disease.

81. Soak up the sun! A good dose of vitamin D keeps heart cells healthy.

82. Put sleep first (aim for at least seven hours). Sweet dreams make for happy hearts.

83. Brush and floss! They do more than freshen your breath. Good oral health may reduce heart attack risk.

84. Check nutrition labels: If sugar is the first or second ingredient, just say no! It’s not a healthy choice.

85. Work in exercise whenever you can. At the office, squat until you’re almost sitting on your chair. Do 15 reps. Easy!

86. Live in a heart-healthy ‘hood. Grocery stores and parks within walking distance encourage casual exercise.

87. Fret less about the future. Excess anxiety may stress your heart.

88. Plain popcorn is a heart-healthy snack!

89. Be mindful of every bite. Slow down and savour the flavour.

90. Ditch deep-fried foods and commercial baked goods. They seriously increase the risk for heart disease!

91. Be good to your heart now. The seeds of disease are planted early. Stop them before they take root.

92. Use healthy fats like cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil on your salad.

93. Start roughing it! Fibre-rich foods are one of the best ways to help prevent heart disease.

94. Build a better brekkie. Oatmeal is a heart-healthy start (bonus points for sprinkling flax seeds on top).

95. Make time for hugs. A tight squeeze can help lower your blood pressure and reduce stress.

96. Play a sport you love! A fit heart is a happy heart.

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