It’s a sobering fact: Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. Since February is American Heart Month, it’s an important time to make sure you’re doing everything you can do to keep your ticker in tip-top shape.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends the following heart health tips:
- Don’t smoke
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Engage in regular physical activity
- Manage blood pressure
- Take charge of cholesterol
- Keep blood sugar, or glucose, at healthy levels
Lets dig a little deeper into how you can follow these recommendations:
The butt stops here
This should be a no-brainer. If you smoke, please quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
Watch your weight
Not only does obesity put you at risk for heart disease, it also raises your risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and stroke. Waist size forecasts heart health better than weight or BMI. A large waist (over 35 inches or more) may lead to heart disease risk factors such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Fortunately, studies show that a low-carb diet like Atkins can help decrease your waist circumference.
Here are more AHA recommended heart health tips
Perform at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 days per week for a total of 150 minutes.
Perform at least 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least 3 days per week for a total of 75 minutes; or a combination of the two.
Perform moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 or more days per week for additional health benefits.
The triple-whammy: blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar: A meta-analysis study published in the August 2012 issue of Obesity Reviews reviewed the results of 17 clinical trials analyzing the effects of a low-carb diet like Atkins o
n body weight and blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar (plus other risk factors). The findings highlight many benefits of a low-carb diet by showing that compared to a baseline diet, the Atkins Diet may be able to improve these risk factors.
Here are some more reasons why the Atkins Diet may be one of the best ways you can improve your heart health:
Heart-smart carbs: Processed or rapidly digested carbs (like white flour, white rice, sugar and packaged foods like crackers, cookies and chips) increase the risk of coronary heart disease, according to the Harvard Nurses Study, which followed almost 120,000 female nurses for eight years. When you follow Atkins, you control carb intake. By eliminating added sugar and focusing on whole foods, including foundation vegetables, as your core carbohydrates, you are eliminating those processed carbs that put you at risk for heart disease. As you transition up the Carb Ladder and through each Phase of Atkins, you gradually reintroduce more carbohydrates. This process allows you to customize Atkins so that you can discover how many grams of net carbs you can eat each day while still losing or maintaining your weight.
Heart-smart fats: Certain fats are good for your heart, and they are also an important part of Atkins. These fats include monounsaturated fats; which are found in nuts, avocados and olive and canola oil and polyunsaturated fats; which are found in fish, sunflower seeds, soybeans and flaxseeds as well as cottonseed, corn and safflower oils. Try having at least two servings a week (3.5 ounces) of fatty coldwater fish like salmon, halibut and tuna, which are rich in omega 3 fatty acids. Omega 3s may decrease triglyceride levels, slow the rate of atherosclerotic plaque and lower blood pressure. Avoid trans fats, also known as hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Trans fats are found in packaged foods such as cookies and chips and fried foods.