10 Easy Steps to a Healthier Heart | Reader's Digest

10 Easy Steps to a Healthier Heart

Keep your heart healthy and reduce your heart attack risk with these simple tips.

By Michael F. Roizen | MD from Reader's Digest | February 2007

     

  • 6.

    Floss your teeth regularly.

    Avoiding periodontal disease prevents inflammation in the arteries, which helps you head off heart disease. Most people don’t know that your oral health affects all your arterial health, and that includes blood flow to the heart and sexual organs, and maybe even wrinkles on your skin.

  • 7.

    Eat no more than 20 grams of saturated fat a day and as little trans fat as possible.

    Saturated fat and trans fats lead to inflammation in the arteries. A cinnamon roll may have 7 grams of saturated fat. A 4-ounce slice of roast pork tenderloin has about 4 grams. Trans fats (partially hydrogenated oils), found in many processed and baked foods, are probably at least as bad as saturated fats, and maybe a little worse.

  • 8.

    Read labels and throw out all food that has sugar in the first five ingredients.

    Don’t be fooled by foods that are low in fat but high in sugar. The sugar causes inflammation. And if you eat more sugar than you need, it gets morphed into omentum fat, that dangerous fat around the belly. For a while in the 1990s, many people used “low fat” salad dressings that turned out to be loaded with calorie-laden sugar. And those dressings didn’t contain any good fats like olive oil, which are beneficial. Healthy fats are better than empty sugar calories. (Because the sugar in fruit is in a complex carbohydrate, it’s usually fine.)

  • 9.

    Have a glass of wine or beer today.

    We’re not sure why; there may be an anti-inflammatory effect. But it’s a consistent finding that teetotalers have a higher risk of heart disease than people who drink a little, and people who drink a lot have little heart disease but tend to die of cancer. Seven drinks on Friday night is not the same as one every night! We know there are serious dangers to drinking, but still, any kind of alcohol in moderation is good for arteries.

  • 10.

    Eat 9 servings of colorful fruits and vegetables a day.

    That comes with a lot of fiber, and you shouldn’t increase to that amount all at once or people won’t stay in the same room with you! But you’ll adjust in 2 to 6 weeks. Make sure you wash fresh produce carefully and thoroughly. There are farmers’ markets all over the country now. If you try fresh locally grown veggies prepared well, you’ll be amazed at how good they taste.