5 Habits for a Heart-Healthy Summer

June 7th, 2016

For months, you've been bombarded with media messages that "bikini season is coming!". As we celebrate the start of shorts and sandals weather in Western New York, we thought it would be a great time to highlight a few ways to maintain heart health during the summer months.

5 habits for a heart-healthy summer:

  1. Take a dip. Swimming is one of the best forms of aerobic exercise for heart health and weight control? Just 30 minutes of exercise per day significantly reduces the risk of heart disease, and aerobic exercise (such as swimming, walking, jogging, and biking) has been shown to raise the levels of "good" cholesterol, or HDL. Swimming also improves the health of your arteries - for every 1% bump in HDL, the risk of heart disease decreases by 3.5%! Come on in... the water's fine!

  2. Slice up the watermelon. Watermelon is more than just a summertime favorite. It's a heart-healthy favorite, too! Watermelon contains citrulline and arginine, amino acids that can help maintain arteries, blood flow, and overall cardiovascular function. Along with helping cardiac function, watermelon is also rich in calcium, which strengthens overall bone structures.

  3. Go Fishing. Along with being a relaxing sport, you can reap the rewards of your catch with the heart-healthy benefits of Omega-3s! Eating one to two servings of fish per week can reduce your risk of dying of a heart attack, thanks to the cholesterol-lowering effects of omega 3 fatty acids. Eating fatty fish such as salmon, lake trout, herring, tuna, and sardines contain the most benefit of omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce inflammation throughout the body and therefore reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

  4. Fire up the grill. Grilling is typically a healthier way to prepare meats and vegetables as opposed to frying or baking. Because of the way meat cooks on the grill, many of the natural flavors are maintained, meaning you will be less likely to soak your meals in condiments and added butters. Use a rack to ensure the fat drips away from your food while cooking, and choose lean cuts of meat such as loin and round cuts of red meat and pork, or chicken breasts as opposed to legs and thighs. Turkey burgers are also a great alternative to the usual cheeseburger, as they typically contain less calories and saturated fats than beef burgers.

  5. Stay hydrated. Drinking 8-10 glasses of water helps maintain overall health, but did you know that drinking it at certain times of the day has different effects on the body? For instance, having 2 glasses after waking up helps to activate internal organs, 1 glass 30 minutes before eating a meal helps aid digestion, 1 glass before taking a bath or shower helps lower blood pressure, and 1 glass before going to bed helps to reduce the risk of stroke and heart attack. Cool down with a cold water throughout the day to maintain overall wellness!

Along with these tips, there are other precautions to take in the heat of summer, such as avoiding the outdoors when the sun is at its strongest, exercising with a friend, dressing properly for the heat, and being aware of the side effects of any medications you may be taking, as certain heart medications can exaggerate the body's response to heat.