There are a number of factors that contribute to your heart disease risk, from things you can't control—such as family history and age—to things you can control a bit, including stress level, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure. But there's one major risk factor for heart disease that you can control: visceral fat. So what can you do? In order to keep your heart as healthy as possible, here are heart-specific recommendations that will keep your ticker going strong. Is it any wonder your heart needs all the support it can get? The most important thing your heart needs is a constant, nourishing supply of blood from the coronary arteries. When we talk about heart disease, what we're talking about is basically a hiccup in this critical delivery system: blood flow is blocked and cannot get to the heart to feed it.

*Eat two squares of dark chocolate. The bacteria in our stomach ferment chocolate into useful anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for the heart. Gut microbes such as bifidobacteria feast on the chocolate and release beneficial polyphenolic compounds. The scientists believe that adding fruit to chocolate could boost the fermentation. Chocolate-covered strawberries, anyone? *Break up with your sweetheart. That's right, we're talking about sugar. Health officials are now pointing the finger at sugar as the leading dietary cause of cardiovascular issues. According to a study the risk of dying from cardiovascular disease more than doubled for those who consumed 21% or more of their calories from added sugar. One of the easiest ways to reduce your added sugar intake is to cut out sugary drinks and reduce processed foods—that's anything with a label that lists more than two or three ingredients. But don't worry: you'll still satisfy your sweet tooth with fresh fruits, delicious smoothies and oatmeal bowls, and plenty of delicious desserts and berries.

*Get fit(ter). Studies suggest a combination of cardio and resistance training is the best fitness formula for the heart. That's what makes metabolic circuits, which combine both aerobic exercise and resistance training, so effective. middle-aged people who increase their fitness level can radically reduce their risk for cardiovascular issues. For example, if a 40-year-old went from jogging a mile in twelve minutes to running a mile in ten minutes, he or she could reduce the risk of heart failure at a later age by 40%! *Swap salt for spice. Dietary is known to increase blood pressure, which is itself a major risk factor for heart disease. But a directive like "eat less salt" is hard to follow, especially when the nachos are calling your name. The trick: find salt-free ways to bolster the flavor of your food. Certain herbs and spices have proven benefits, like boosting your metabolism and blocking fat cell formation. *Let it sprout. Ever find old heads of garlic with green sprouts growing out of them in the bottom of your fridge? Don't toss them! Aged garlic extract, also known as kyolic garlic or AGE, has the same effect. One study found that participants who took four pills of AGE a day saw a reduction in plaque buildup in the arteries. Garlic is said to considerably reduce cholesterol levels and blood clots, thus improving heart health.

*Fill up on fiber. Fiber protects the heart by boosting the body's ability to produce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptors, which act like bouncers, pulling "bad" cholesterol out of the blood. It is advised to have 25g fiber every day that's just one portion of whole grains, beans, or legumes, or two servings of fresh produce. *Go wild for blueberries. Wild blueberries are essentially a natural supplement for cardiovascular health, particularly blood flow to and from the heart. According to study, wild blueberry consumption (2 cups per day) for eight weeks was shown to regulate and improve the balance between relaxing and constricting factors in the vascular wall in obese rats. Two cups is a lot, but you can up your intake by throwing 1/2 to 1 cup of the berries in your drinks and morning oatmeal. Blueberries are surprisingly tasty on green salads too! Pro Tip : “Including 30-60g walnuts in your diet can keep Cardiovascular disease at bay!” #HealthyHeart 'Keep your Heart and blood vessel healthier'

Diksha Kashyap
Dec. 7, 2020, 6:05 p.m.

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