Every 20 seconds, somebody in the United States has a heart attack. Every minute, somebody dies from it. Many of those people didn’t even know what was happening. Less than half of heart attacks actually involve chest pains. Other symptoms, such as shortness of breath and fatigue or a vague sense of anxiety, mimic what you’d feel if you were tired or having a minor panic attack. These are scary statistics, and your best strategy is to lower your risk for heart attack. You’ve heard the general advice (change your diet, exercise) but if you’re not yet ready to cut out all red meat, here are simple eating habits that can already make a big difference.
1. Take a vitamin B supplement.
Studies show that Vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and folic acid can lower your body’s levels of homocysteine (a chemical associated with heart conditions) by as much as 40%. You can get these vitamins from eggs, spinach, and milk, but since many of the nutrients are lost during food processing, it’s still better to get a supplement.
2. Have a piece of dark chocolate for dessert.
Milk chocolate has too much butterfat to be healthy, but small amounts of dark chocolate a week gives you a wonder chemical called flavonoids, which helps prevent your arteries from clogging up with plaque.
3. Drink one glass of beer a day.
We’ve all heard about the health benefits of drinking wine, but according to one study (which came out in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry) a glass of beer a day has similar effects. It lowers your body’s levels of fibrinogen (which causes clots) and boosts levels of antioxidants.
4. Eat fish at least once a week.
This small diet change can lower your risk for developing rapid, irregular heartbeats (one of the leading triggers for heart attack) by as much as 30%. Instead of frying the fish, try to grill or steam it. Serve on a bed of greens or with a cup of brown rice.
5. Eat one serving of beans four times week.
Research conducted by the Tulane University showed that this can reduce your heart attack risk by as much as 22%. Serve beans in salad, or add to soups and stews. One cup of beans also gives you 300 grams of folic acid (see tip # 1) which lowers your risk for stroke by 20%.
6. Drink a glass of orange juice a day.
If you’re an avid soda drinker, switch to orange juice. It’s just as sweet and protects your body for heart attack in many ways: it’s full of flavonoids and folates, lowers homocysteine by as much as 11%. Plus, it boosts your immune system, and can even lower your risk of stroke especially if you smoke.
Sick of orange juice? Switch to cherry juice. It contains anthocyanins, which lower your body’s uric acid levels. (High uric acid is one factor in developing heart disease.)
7. Add ginger and garlic to your dishes.
Not only do ginger and garlic add natural flavor to your sautés and stews, they’ve been known to prevent the inflammations associated with heart disease. In fact, the ancient Chinese have associated these with longevity and good health.