Five Ways to Live Heart Healthy this Summer
Fresh food, friends and fun lower risk of heart disease
With summer finally in sight, many opportunities exist to celebrate the spirit of the season while also boosting your heart health. “Summer is a great time of year to recharge and revitalize your health,” said Stephen R. Devries, MD, a preventive cardiologist who emphasizes natural approaches at Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute. “From purchasing fresh fruit and vegetables at farmer’s markets to lakefront jogs, summer is the best time to make some small changes that can have a powerful impact.”
Devries offers these simple tips to boost heart health during the upcoming summer months:
Shop the local farmer’s market
Skip the starches and high fat snacks and think light and fresh when it comes to summer food selections. “Go for a colorful selection of vegetables and fruit,” said Devries. “They lower inflammation and are a great source of fiber to help lower cholesterol.” He added that to give your body the right mix of the nutrients it needs, you should consider dark leafy greens, together with a mix of rich yellow, orange or red colored foods, as summer staples.
Eat heart healthy
Forgo the stick-to-your-ribs winter fare and think about summer meals of fresh, wild-caught fish. “Fish keeps your energy level high while lowering inflammation and protecting your heart-a perfect entrée year round but all the better on a summer grill,” added Devries. If you enjoy wine, a single glass, responsibly consumed, could be a heart healthy pairing. So take an early morning gander at the farmer’s market, fire up that grill and enjoy an al fresco heart healthy feast.
Warm weather provides people the opportunity to get outdoors and get their heart rate up by getting physical. “Just 30 minutes of daily activity- from an early morning walk on the lake to an after dinner family bike ride- can go a long way to protecting your heart,” said Devries. “Keeping your body in motion is like a wonder drug-it lowers your sugar and cholesterol levels, strengthens your heart and sharpens your mind.”
Spend time with loved ones
Summer is an easy time of year to reach out to people who nurture you. “Connecting with other people not only enriches your life, it strengthens your heart,” said Devries. “Studies show that people who have stronger social connections have less stress, lower blood pressure and a lower risk of a heart attack.” As for those summer romances? That rush of excitement and endorphins can have many lasting health benefits. “Sharing your heart only makes it stronger,” added Devries. Whether it is a family reunion, a picnic with a friend or a summer evening out on the town, time spent together this season is just what the doctor ordered.
Laugh a little (or a lot)
Laughter is good medicine-no kidding. “Laughter releases stress busting endorphins that relax the arteries in your heart,” said Devries. “Happiness, laughter and a positive outlook keep your immune system strong and your heart healthy. There’s a good reason happy people are called light-hearted!”