(BPT) - It's not cancer, accidents or even old age - the leading cause of death in both men and women in the United States is cardiovascular disease, which includes heart attack and stroke. The good news is that this killer is highly preventable and controllable. By taking the right steps and working closely with your doctor, you can help prevent heart attack and stroke at any age.
Bestselling author Dr. Michael Ozner, a board-certified cardiologist, a Fellow of the American College of Cardiology and of the American Heart Association, and medical director of Wellness and Prevention at Baptist Health South Florida, knows when it comes to your heart, a proactive approach is best. Here are some of his top tips to help you start your own cardiac makeover:
Eat the Mediterranean way
A Mediterranean diet is ideal for heart health because it mainly consists of fruits, vegetables, olive oil, whole grains, legumes, nuts, fish and poultry. It is low in saturated fat and contains more of the healthy fats that support heart function. When embracing a heart-healthy diet, it's also best to limit sugar, salt, red meat, trans fats or processed foods.
Drink to heart health
If you drink alcohol, the key is to do so in moderation. Consume no more than one drink for a woman and two drinks for a man in a 24-hour period. One drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of spirits.
Catch heart health with fish oil
Fish oil supplements are clinically proven to support cardiovascular health. Since the typical American doesn't consume enough omega-3s from healthy food sources, a quality fish oil is the best option to ensure adequate intake. Remember, not all fish oil supplements are created equal - when shopping, get a certificate of analysis from the company and compare results for purity, freshness and potency. For example, Nordic Naturals provides this information to customers, which includes guidelines from leading organizations on toxins, oxidation and heavy metals.
Know your biomarkers
Comprehensive blood tests by a health care professional reveal important biomarkers that can help you understand your heart health and where to make improvements. Biomarkers go beyond standard cholesterol tests to reveal hidden risks. When it comes to heart health, knowledge is power, and when you and your doctor know your biomarkers, you both can come up with an intervention and therapy plan to correct any abnormalities.
Step up for heart health
Make it your goal to walk 10,000 steps each day - the equivalent of 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise. Track your progress with a pedometer. It can become addictive to check that little device and see the number increase. If you're not very physically active, start slow and work your way up. Start by walking at least 30 minutes per day and boost your steps by walking during your lunch break, taking the stairs rather than the elevator, and walking in place while watching TV.
Melt away stress
Stress is an enemy of heart health, but we all know that it's difficult to avoid stress completely. That's why it's important to understand your personal stress triggers and learn new ways to manage them. Retrain your mind to see daily stressors for what they are and learn to calm yourself down in healthy ways. Practice relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, visualization, exercise and music. Breathing calmly is one of the simplest - yet best - ways to reduce stress and stay in control. Don't forget to get adequate sleep each night too.
Heart health should be a priority for every American at any age, and with a few important tips from experts like Dr. Ozner, giving yourself a cardiac makeover has never been easier. For further information, read Dr. Ozner's bestselling book 'Heart Attack Proof - A Six Week Cardiac Makeover For a Lifetime of Optimal Health.'