Good news from the research front: several studies show that heart attack risk is lowest in the summer, possibly because people typically exercise more in warm months, eat a lighter, healthier diet, and get more heart-protective vitamin D than they do in winter, when days are shorter.
Use these five simple, science-backed tips to keep your ticker in top condition in July — and beyond.
- Move your workout outdoors. A wonderful way to enjoy the beautiful sights and sounds of the season, while getting the exercise you need for optimal heart health, is an early morning workout, whether it’s brisk walking, running, or biking. Also known as “green exercise,” physical activity in natural settings has truly remarkable health benefits, ranging from lower blood pressure and a healthier heart rate to brighter moods and improved sleep, as I recently reported.
- Pack a jar of salad for lunch. Here’s an easy idea to celebrate the seasonal bounty of delicious fruits and veggies: Try making salad in a jar, which I highlighted in my newsletter several years ago and remains one of my summertime favorites. Later in this newsletter, you’ll find a layered salad-in-a-jar recipe from a White House chef. Simple to prepare, it’s a terrific way for busy working parents like me to get a heart-healthy antioxidant boost at work or enjoy when you’re on the go.
- Fill your grill with fish. Did you know that eating oily fish — such as salmon, tuna, or herring — twice a week, as recommended by the American Heart Association, cuts risk for fatal heart disease by 36%? Rich in omega-3 fatty acids and low in calories, grilled fish — seasoned with a savory spice rub — is an easy, delicious choice for July cookouts. Toss a few skewers of cubed vegetables on the grill as well and you’ll have a perfect summer cookout to enjoy with family and friends.
- Hydrate! As the mercury climbs, it’s essential to drink enough water (eight or more glasses daily). Not only does that prevent dehydration, but it can also help you maintain a healthy weight, according to a new study of nearly 10,000 people. The researchers found that people who are inadequately hydrated are more likely to be overweight than those who drank ample water and ate fruits and veggies with high water content. such as cucumbers, Bell peppers, celery and apples. Not only do these healthy foods fill you up, but they’re also low in calories. That’s a win all around!
- Take a vacation! An annual getaway could add years to your life, a recent study suggests. The researchers tracked middle-aged men at high risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) for 9 years. Those who vacationed at least once a year had a 32% lower risk for CHD, including heart attacks, and were 29% less likely to die from cardiac causes, even when other factors were taken into account. That’s powerful motivation to take off from work, kick back and relax this summer!