Expert tips to protect your heart this winter
(BPT) – Heart disease and stroke remain the two top killers of Americans, according to the American Heart Association. Some research shows that heart-related deaths increase by 5 percent during the holidays, no matter where you live, and more cardiac deaths occur on Christmas and New Year’s day than on any other days of the year, according to a study by the University of California, San Diego and Tufts University School of Medicine published in the journal Circulation.
Cardiovascular-related incidents increase in winter for a number of reasons, including drops in temperature that constrict blood vessels, irregular workout routines, poor stress management and changing eating habits.
“We tend to eat significantly more inflammation-promoting foods in the winter,” says Dr. Michael Roizen, founder of RealAge.com. “The combination of poor diet and other stressors can trigger plaque ruptures and cause chunks of fatty deposits lining arteries to enter the bloodstream, potentially leading to more risk for heart attack and stroke.”
Here are suggestions for keeping your heart healthy this winter:
Maintain a healthy diet
Less than 1 percent of adults meet the American Heart Association’s definition for an “Ideal Healthy Diet,” which means the majority of people need to make some smarter nutrition decisions. Don’t overindulge on artery-clogging dishes, and instead focus on foods that contain key heart health nutrients, including:
* Omega-3s DHA and EPA, found in fatty fish like salmon and sardines, are essential fatty acids which have been shown to support healthy blood pressure and brain function. GOED (the Global Organization for EPA and DHA omega-3) recommends getting 250-500mg of EPA and DHA per day through foods and supplements.
* Vitamin D, found in mushrooms and added to soy and almond milks, has been shown to support heart health. Some research indicates that a vitamin D deficiency may be a risk factor for heart attacks, congestive heart failure, peripheral arterial disease and high blood pressure. Sunlight is the best natural source for vitamin D, but since people spend more time indoors during the winter, add foods that pack an added vitamin D punch, like soy milk fortified with the nutrient to the grocery list.
* Beta-glucan, found in oats, is a plant-based sugar known to lower absorption of cholesterol, which may reduce the risk of heart disease. Research shows that consuming approximately 3mg per day of oat beta-glucan has a statistically significant cholesterol lowering effect.
* For more information about nutrition for heart health, visit vitaminsinmotion.com.
Even if you do follow a healthy diet, a busy lifestyle can make it difficult to obtain the recommended amounts of vitamins and minerals from food alone. One simple way to enhance your diet is to look for foods fortified with key nutrients and nutritional supplements.
Regular exercise has a favorable effect on many of the established risk factors for cardiovascular disease. For example, exercise promotes weight reduction and can help reduce blood pressure. Take the dog on a walk or challenge your kids to a snowball fight. Make it fun, but make sure it happens.
If you’re going outdoors in the cold, keep your mouth covered with a scarf so warm air hits your lungs first when you breathe in. For those who are traveling from a warm to a cold climate, pack warm gear, because some research suggests a dip in temperature from what you’re used to may increase your risk for stroke by 7 percent, and heart attack by 12 percent.
Focus on the pleasures of the holiday season, like gift-giving, family time and volunteering. Giving and relaxation can benefit stress levels. Finally, sticking to your normal sleep schedule is very important.