#1: First things first: Get a risk assessment. Your doctor can help you identify problem areas.
#2. Grab a pedometer and try to walk 10,000 steps each day. Challenge yourself to beat 10,000 once you've reached your first goal.
#3. Stop smoking. Talk to your doctor about smoking cessation programs to help.
#4. Make salad your main side dish. Reducing your carb intake and increasing your veggies leads to weight loss.
#5. Check out GoRedForWomen.org for a life-saving heart check-up, to learn daily living tips and download heart-healthy recipes.
#6. Friday, February 6 was National Wear Red Day. Wear red and think about your heart!
#7. Exercise three times today, 10 minutes each time. Studies show it's just as effective as a 30 minute work-out for people with busy schedules.
#8. Know your numbers: cholesterol, blood pressure and glucose. Jot them down and keep them handy.
#9. Know your heart attack warning signs: chest and upper body discomfort, shortness of breath, cold sweat and/or nausea.
#10. Eating small portions every three to four hours will help you lose weight by stabilizing your blood sugar and preventing hunger spikes.
#11. Don't have a gym membership? Fire up the DVD player instead. A new study finds doing fitness DVDs (or videos) can burn 480 calories an hour!
#12. Eat lots of brightly colored vegetables. Nutritionist Stephanie Tuss says vegetables contain powerful antioxidants like Carotenoids, Vitamin C and Vitamin E. These help keep your heart healthy as well as fight degenerative disease and slow the effects of aging.
Stephanie says even adding carrot sticks to your lunch may have a healthy effect on your body. Better yet, cook the carrots. Cooking almost doubles the availability of carotenoids and phytonutrients (the good stuff).
For more heart healthy information, visit Stephanie's website at http://www.foods4wellness.com
#13. Another heart healthy tip from my favorite nutritionist, Stephanie Tuss. Consider taking Coenzyme Q 10. Co Q 10 has been well documented by research to help offset the toxic effects of Statin drugs and reduce blood pressure.
It's considered a wonder nutrient by many for its ability to improve the heart's ability to pump more effectively. Dietary sources of Co Q 10 can be found mainly in pork and fish, especially salmon, mackerel and sardines. Vegetarian sources of Co Q 10 are peanuts and broccoli.
#14. There are basically three essentials to a healthy snack - fiber, fluid and protein. When you grab a pear, eat 15 almonds, too. An apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter also squashes the hunger pangs. And don't forget a bottle of water to keep your fluid intake up.
#15. Prevention Magazine lists a number of health food imposters in its January 2009 issue. Among them are baked potato chips, gummy fruit snacks, and diet soda. The baked chips are still high in calories and low in nutrients, so substitute oil-free or hot air popped popcorn. Gummy fruit snacks are basically candy infused with vitamins. Fresh or dried fruit is much better. And researchers found people who consume one diet soda each day are at higher risk for heart disease. Grab a flavored selzer water instead.
#16. According to the American Heart Association, people who are depressed are twice as likely to suffer a second heart attack. So if you're feeling blue after a first attack, be sure to discuss it with your doctor.
#17. If you're looking for a general diet that's heart healthy, all signs point to the Mediterranean Diet. The Mediterranean Diet means fewer carbs and more protein. To follow the plan, decrease processed foods including cereals, flour-based pastas, bagels, and pastries, and decrease any and all fruit juices. If you must drink juice, dilute it with water. Increase your intake of fruits, vegetables (especially onions, garlic, and broccoli), protein such as salmon, chicken, turkey or lean beef, nuts and seeds, and use olive oil instead of other vegetable oils.
#18 Make good eating a family activity. On Sundays, get the entire family involved in cleaning and slicing vegetables for the coming week. It makes meal preparation throughout the week a lot less stressful and can lead to good bonding time. If Sundays aren't your family day, find a day that is!
#19 African Americans are at increased risk due to factors such as family history, high rates of diabetes and high rates of high blood pressure. Blacks have higher death rates from stroke and have almost twice the risk of first-ever stroke compared to whites. The impact of stroke is profound and it not only affects the person afflicted, but the families. Know your risk factors, and pay attention to early signs of stroke. For a list, check out the American Heart Association website.
#20. Avoid the bad and keep the good -- as in fat! The bad fats are saturated fats such as those found in meat and cheese. Most fast foods are high in these types of fat. The good fats include olive oil, canola oil and other oils high in mono-unsaturated fat. They may actually improve your level of HTL and "good" cholesterol. But go easy! Fats of any kind are high in calories, and it's important to maintain an appropriate body weight to reduce the risk of heart disease.
#21. Try to reduce the stress in your life so you remain calm. Stress or panic attacks, trigger the release of hormones that can threaten your heart; curbing negative emotions is almost as good for your heart as proper diet and exercising. For stress, try yoga, tai chi, meditation, and measured breathing. Regular aerobic exercise helps ease depression. If you can't shake negative emotions and they are interfering with your functioning, seek professional counseling.
#22. Avoid drinking too much. Drinking a little bit of alcohol-one drink a day for women, one or two a day for men-can raise HDL (good) cholesterol and reduce inflammation and blood clots. But more than that can cause heart problems.
#23. Watch your salt intake. If you have high blood pressure or are at risk of developing it, cutting back on salt could reduce your risk of a heart attack by 25 percent or more. Your goal should be less than 2,300 mg of sodium a day, which is about a teaspoon of salt. Remember, all foods have salt naturally, so think before you sprinkle on more salt.
#24. Here's another tidbit about salt. Use sea salt instead of processed table salt. It has a slightly different taste but it's easy to get used to, it's all natural, and it's not all that much more expensive than table salt. Remember, a little goes a long way.