Your heart is the fifth largest and most important organ in your body, beating a hundred thousand times a day to pump blood to all of your organs. The heart allows you to perform everything from driving your car to exercising. Because of this, if your heart is physically in jeopardy, so is your life. Heart disease is the number one killer in both men and women, affecting more than 43 million a year. While your genetics may lead some to be predisposed to heart disease, a quarter of deaths from heart failure can be prevented. Simple lifestyle changes can reduce the risk of heart disease by 80 percent and give you a more fulfilling daily routine.

Your diet may be one of the most critical things to change. Increasing the amount of fish you eat can be extremely beneficial to your heart, due to the omega-3 fatty acids found in them. Besides the omega-3 fatty acids that decrease the risk of an abnormal heartbeat, fish also supports a normal blood pressure. It is important, however, when increasing your fish intake to watch the amount of mercury you are consuming. Mercury is a heavy metal that is absorbed by fish that can irritate the lining of your blood vessels and potentially harden your arteries. Salmon, freshwater fish such as trout, herring, tilapia, and tuna are all great examples of low mercury fishes that still provide all of the benefits your heart will thank you for.

Salt is another area of your diet that you should be mindful of in respect to your heart. Salt is a critical, essential mineral that is needed for your cells to work. It helps regulate your heartbeat, blood pressure, nerve transmission, muscle contraction, stomach acid, and pH balance. However, if you consume more than the daily recommendation of 1,100 to 3,300 mg of sodium each day, it can lead to problems such as high blood pressure. This does not mean you need to remove salt from your diet, but finding a balance between your sodium and potassium intake will regulate your water balance, and in turn, will regulate your blood pressure. You can increase the potassium in your diet by eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.

Having a wholesome diet and implementing more fish and potassium are crucial for maintaining your heart’s health, but it isn’t just what you eat but when you eat that matters. According to the American Heart Association, eating less calories at night and more during the day can decrease your chances of stroke, heart attack, or other heart diseases. In a study done by nutrition researchers at Columbia University, they found that we may not process sugars as well at night as we do during the day. This is why we often hear the phrase that breakfast is the most important meal of the day!

Along with a healthy diet and lifestyle, scheduling in some ‘me time’ is just as important for your heart to be healthy. There is a strong link between heart disease and chronic stress that can come from not giving yourself a break. Having a lot of negative stress can cause a profound impact on your body, from high levels of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol to a change in the way your blood clots. Carving out time where you can be alone and relax is essential for you to mitigate harmful stress in your life.

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