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Picking up good habits: Effective heart health, minus the meds

Feb 7, 2012, 6 a.m.

There are far too many people in the world who look at risk factors like family history, age, or sex and throw in the towel on their health without even giving themselves a fighting chance. The fact is, nothing is ever truly "in the cards" -- and even if you've already been diagnosed with heart disease or are spiraling towards that as an inevitability, there's nothing that says you can't take steps to better your situation. What's even more important to realize is that you don't have to be reliant on expensive medications to help you out. From adopting methods of holistic stress management to taking up a simple daily exercise routine, there are plenty of things that you can do and plenty of healthy habits you can pick up on the road to effective heart health. Here are the top 5 ways of doing just that.

  1. Have your health checked regularly. This is the most important tip, because without seeing your doctor on a regular basis you may have no way of knowing whether or not your health is spinning out of control or if it's improving.
  2. Stay away from tobacco. This is a suggestion for better health that is much easier said than done for millions of people across the world, primarily because tobacco is so addictive. But there's no doubt that breaking away from your tobacco habits and quitting altogether is one of the most important steps to take to achieve good heart health. Whether you've been using tobacco for 40 years or 4 months, eliminating that factor from your life will increase your health dramatically. Within one year of quitting, your risk of developing heart disease drops dramatically.
  3. Get daily exercise. This doesn't mean that you have to wear yourself out on your treadmill or do 100 laps around the neighborhood every day. Even as little as 15 to 30 minutes of exercise a day can bring about serious improvements in your health and can act as a powerful holistic stress management tool. If you're the type of person who's content to wait around for the spirit to move you or for the "right time" to get in that workout, the time may never come. Take proactive steps now, even if they're only baby steps, toward exercising on a regular basis.
  4. Eat healthy. The best news about eating a heart healthy diet is that it doesn't have to break your budget. Make room in your daily diet for plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grain foods, and low-fat dairy products. Eliminate some of the major sources of saturated fat from your diet, which typically come from red meat, dairy, and coconut oil. Trans fat is another type of fat to cut back on -- this type of fat is usually found in deep-fried food, bakery goods like donuts, packaged snacks, crackers, and margarine.
  5. Keep your weight under control. This means that if your weight isn't under control, you have to take steps at bringing it under control. Being overweight can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes.

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