6 ways to love your heart

While there’s no cure for aortic stenosis, leading a heart-smart lifestyle can help keep other conditions in check. And if you undergo valve replacement, being in the best shape possible will help you bounce back quickly!

Health Monitor Staff
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1. Pile your plate healthy!
You have a bonanza of wholesome delicious foods from which to choose: fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, low-fat and fat-free dairy and lean sources of protein. When eating poultry, remove skin, and try to put fish on the menu at least twice a week.
Following a healthy eating plan will help you control your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar and manage your weight, says the American Heart Association.

Have a hankering for red meat? Think of it as a condiment, rather than the main attraction. Example: Add some ground beef to your tomato sauce or some grilled lamb chunks to a bowl of roasted vegetables.

2. Put the kibosh on high-cal, low-nutrient noshes
An occasional indulgence is okay, but if processed foods, sugary beverages, salty snacks and candy, cake and ice cream are your go-to foods, you’re depriving your body of the nutrients it needs to operate at its best.

Buy a lot of packaged foods? Let the Nutrition Facts label guide you! Choose products that have fewer calories per serving and a lower %DV of total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.

3. Give stress the slip
Out-of-control stress levels may send your blood pressure soaring, raise cholesterol, cause your heart to flutter, weaken your immune system and more, according to Cleveland Clinic. Turn the tables on tension by taking note of the things that set you on edge and avoiding them. Accept the things you cannot change. And take time each day to relax—watch a funny movie, listen to music, talk to a friend or get wrapped up in a hobby like painting or knitting.

4. Stub out smoking
Studies in the journal Circulation and elsewhere suggest smoking can speed up the progression of aortic stenosis. So if you’re still lighting up, make it a priority to quit. Don’t be discouraged if you’ve tried and failed before—the greater your number of quit attempts, the greater your chances of succeeding the next time! If you need help, ask your cardiologist to recommend a smoking-cessation strategy.

5. Build fitness into your day
As long as you have your doctor’s okay, strive to make activity a part of your routine. Climb the stairs when you can, bring in the grocery bags one at a time, do some stretching while watching TV, walk to the post office or the grocery store.

6. Be active—within reason
Moderate exercise like walking and light strength training can help your overall health, but clear it with your doctor. Interventional cardiologist Jon Resar, MD, director of the Adult Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory at The Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, cautions against vigorous exercise, adding, “Don’t become dehydrated, and watch out for sudden postural changes that could cause dizziness or fainting.” 

October 2014