6 Ways to Stay or Become Heart Healthy
Fight Heart Disease & Get Heart Healthy in Six Steps: The heart wants what the heart wants—and what it wants is to be healthy. So to celebrate February being American Heart Month, we’re not skipping a beat: After all, cardiovascular disease deaths fell 32.7 percent but still accounted for nearly one-in-three deaths nationwide between 1999-2009; that’s 2,150 people per day, with about one death every 40 seconds, according to the American Heart Association’s Heart Disease and Stroke Statistical Update 2013. Here are six ways to stay heart healthy, including tips we heart from Pritikin Longevity Center & Spa’s dietician, Kimberly Altman, MS,RD,LD/N, and director of fitness, Scott Danberg, MS.
1) Deep Tissue Massage
A Louisiana State University study focused on the effect deep tissue massage has on blood pressure and heart rate; the report concluded that 45- and 60-minute deep tissue massages resulted in:
● An average systolic pressure reduction of 10.4 mm
● A diastolic pressure reduction of 5.3 mm
● A mean arterial pressure reduction of 7 mm
● And an average heart rate reduction of 10.8 beats per minute
Now, unless you’re in med school and know what all this means, here’s the study’s bottom line: While additional research is needed, deep tissue massage showed the ability to lower blood pressure and heart rate. STAT!
2) Healthy Eating
It sounds like a no brainer, but a good, nutritional diet is among the best preventions and remedies for heart health. “My experience and philosophy is that our immune systems are healthier when we’re healthy, and that includes healthy eating,” says Kimberly Altman, MS, RD, LD/N, dietician at Pritikin. A healthy diet includes fruits and vegetables, whole grains, no added fats, and two servings per day of fat-free dairy or soy, Altman tells us. People try to eat healthier by replacing red meat with chicken, “but there’s still too much cholesterol,” she continues; instead, eat four ounces of fish (for its omega-3 fatty acids) three times per week; four ounces of chicken, turkey, or bison weekly; and red meat just once a month. As well, the healthiest choice of protein is plant protein (beans, legumes, and soy/tofu), which is best for both the heart/cholesterol, and weight loss, Altman says. “Get away from thinking the American way of eating is a protein and sides. You can have a meal that has legumes and a big salad with vegetarian chili. Have a salad and a sweet potato, brown rice and beans.”
3) Tai Chi
A randomized clinical trial of 100 outpatients with chronic heart failure showed that 12 weeks of the Chinese martial art of tai chi may not only “improve quality of life,” but increase “mood and exercise self-efficacy” as well, according to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
A University of Virginia systematic review of 25 clinical trials determined yoga may have the potential to “improve risk indices”—including blood pressure—and “prevent and manage cardiovascular complications” in adults with type-2 diabetes. All the more reason to say, “om.”
In addition to yoga and tai chi, other heart healthy activities that “gently elevate heart rate and thus contribute to a healthier lifestyle and protection from heart disease” include chair Zumba and yoqua (yoga aquatics), says Scott Danberg, MS, director of fitness at Pritikin, which offers these activities. “To reverse and protect against cardiovascular disease, it is recommended to accumulate, at a minimum, 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity five days per week,” Danberg tells us. Benefits by doing so include improved lung capacity, heart function, vascular supply, and muscular strength and endurance, he adds. The best part? “These activities are good for any age, young and old. The key is to start early and prevent cardiovascular disease.”
6) Music Therapy
What else is good for the heart? Though more research is warranted, music therapy may have a positive effect on blood pressure, heart and respiratory rates, anxiety, and pain in people with coronary heart disease, says a Temple University systematic review of 23 randomized controlled trials. That’s music to our ears.