Take care of your hardest working muscle: your heart

Feb 18, 2016, 10:15 AM by Dr. Sendil Hari Prasad, cardiologist, UTMB Angleton Danbury Campus

Strive for a heart-healthy weight. 
Use a Body Mass Index calculator to find out ifHealthyheart you’re at a healthy weight. BMI is an indicator of the amount of body fat most people have. If you can reach and maintain a healthy weight (BMI < 25 kg/m2), not only will you have more energy, you’ll also have a reduced risk of heart disease and other cancers.

Keep your diet balanced. Stick to a healthy, balanced diet low in fat and sugar, and make a point to eat at least five portions of a variety of fruit and vegetables a day. Choose skinless poultry and leaner cuts of meat and lower-fat dairy products like 1 percent-fat milk over full-fat (or whole) milk.

Eat plenty of fiber. Aim for at least 30 grams a day to help lower your risk of heart disease. Fiber can be found in a variety of sources such as bran, steel-cut oats, whole-meal breads and cereals along with many fruits and vegetables.

Go fish. Fish such as mackerel, sardines, fresh tuna and salmon are good sources of omega-3 fats, a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids that are important for various functions in the body. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish at least twice a week.

Drink less alcohol. Don’t forget that alcohol contains calories. Try to keep to recommended daily alcohol limits to reduce the risk of serious problems with your health, including risks to your heart health.

Read food labels. When grocery shopping, it’s always good idea to look at the label on food and drink packages to see how many calories and how much fat, salt and sugar the product contains. Be cautious of pre-packaged foods, as they can contain excessive amounts of salt.

Get physical. Getting and staying active can reduce your risk of developing heart disease. You can do anything physical that keeps your heart rate up for 30 minutes—or 20 minutes if it’s high intensity—five days a week. Include muscle-strengthening activity at least two days per week for additional health benefits. Take 10- to 15-minute walking breaks during the day or after meals.

Give up smoking and avoid secondhand smoke. It’s the single best thing you can do for your heart health. A year after quitting, your risk of a heart attack falls to about half that of a smoker.