T o improve your heart health, why not start by changing what’s on your plate? You know there is a saying that “you are what you eat”.

Whether you’re trying to prevent future heart problems or are already living with high blood pressure or high cholesterol, making simple changes to your diet and lifestyle could have big benefits.

Here are eight tips to improve the health of your heart:

  • Don’t Diet. A crash diet may work if you’re trying to fit into a new pair of jeans by next month. But if you’re trying to improve your heart health, you are not helping yourself if you experiment with every kind of diet you hear about.
  • Eat a Few Small Meals a Day. Don’t stuff yourself with food at mealtimes. We know that overeating will cause you to gain weight, but that’s not all. Studies have found that more people have heart attacks after big meals.
  • Eat Less Salt. Any type of salt increases your blood pressure so you probably need to eat no more than a teaspoon a day. If you already have high blood pressure, you should eat even less. Remember, salt does not just come from the salt shaker. Up to 75% of the salt you eat comes from processed foods like soups and frozen meals (and fast food). So, if food comes in a tin or a box, check the sodium content.
  • Coffee can be Dangerous. Most people love their cup of coffee, or two or three a day. But if you have heart problems, caffeine and other stimulants can trigger symptoms.
  • Drink Alcohol in Moderation. More than one drink a day for women or two for men increases your risk for heart problems.
  • Choose Meat Carefully. Red meat is usually high in saturated fat, which is bad for your heart. This doesn’t mean that you have to become a vegetarian. Just be smarter about the kind of meat you eat; the cut of meat and how it is prepared. Instead of red meat, choose pork, turkey, or chicken as an alternative (remove the skin of the chicken and grill it for best results).
  • Take Aspirin. Researchers at the University of North Carolina found that taking Aspirin regularly cuts the risk of coronary heart disease by 28 percent in people who had never had a heart attack or stroke, but were at risk. For maximum impact on your blood pressure, take a low dose just before bed. (If you already have heart problems, ask your doctor about this).
  • Drink More Tea. Seeing that you have to cut down on the coffee, you may as well drink tea. An American Heart Association study found that men who drank 2 cups of tea a day were 25 percent less likely to die of heart disease. The reason: flavonoids in the tea, which not only improve blood vessels’ ability to relax, but also thin the blood, reducing clotting.

So, the bottom line is that you need to eat healthier – cut down on fat and salt and drink plenty of water for overall health. Combined with some form of daily exercise – like a walk to the shops instead of taking the car or a taxi, you should be well on your way to a healthier heart.

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