Heart Healthy Tips for Men’s Health Month

The leading health risk for men in the U.S. is cardiovascular disease. It kills more men each year than any other disease. June is Men’s Health Month and since lifestyle habits and overall nutrition play such a big role in determining your heart health. We are going to take a look at the risks men’s hearts face and what actions they can take to protect them from cardiovascular disease.

Man concerned about his heart health

What puts your heart at risk?

Leading risk factors include:

  • Unhealthy diets
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Smoking cigarettes
  • Not getting regular exercise

As you can see, many of these lifestyle factors go hand in hand. Your cholesterol levels and blood pressure are also important factors. Just note that the following measurements could mean you’re at greater risk for heart disease:

  • High triglyceride levels– above 150 mg/dL
  • High LDL (bad) cholesterol levels– above 100 mg/dL
  • Low HDL (good) cholesterol levels– lower than 60 mg/dL
  • High blood pressure– above 120/80

What’s the Best Way to Protect Your Heart?

One of the best ways to combat heart disease is in the kitchen. You’ll want to pick up more of the following food items at the store:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Whole grains
  • Sources of lean protein
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Heart-healthy sources of fat

Get More Fiber

Whole grains, fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber, which will help you feel more full and limit your daily calorie-intake. A well-balanced high-fiber diet can be used effectively to lose weight and keep it off.

Heart healthy bowl of fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are a great way to improve your fiber intake.

Fat has an impact on your heart health, but it’s more complex than you might think. You should think about the amount and type of fats that you’re consuming in your diet. Here’s our recommendations:

  • Fat intake should not exceed 35% of your total daily calories
  • Saturated fats should not exceed 10% of your total daily calories
  • Avoid eating too much trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils
  • This means limiting your consumption of foods like:
    • Red meats
    • Butter
    • Fried foods
    • Baked goods
  • Avoid eating too much trans fats or partially hydrogenated oils
  • Look for more sources of unsaturated fat (research has shown that it is beneficial for cardiovascular health)
  • Great sources of unsaturated fat include:
    • Avocados
    • Olive oil
    • Canola oil
    • Walnuts
    • Almonds

Research has shown that Omega-3 fatty acids contain properties that are helpful in reducing an individual’s risk for heart attacks. There are actually several types of omega-3 fatty acids, such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). They can be found in fatty types of fish like:

  • Tuna
  • Salmon
  • Herring
  • Mackerel

Cardiologists now recommend that men aim for 500 milligrams of omega-3 per day. You can get that in about two 6-ounce servings of salmon every week.

Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) is another type of omega-3 that can boost your heart health. This fatty acid can be found in foods like walnuts and flaxseeds. We recommend getting 1 ounce of walnuts (about a handful) or 2 tablespoons of flaxseeds each day.

Don’t Forget Your Fruits and Veggies!

When your heart is on the line, plant-based foods are a far better choice than fatty meats. It can be difficult to forgo those hamburgers and brats when grilling during the summer. We understand that. So here are some awesome grilling recipes to help you get started.

Man prepares the grill for a heart healthy cookout this June

There are plenty of ways to make your grill more heart healthy this summer.

As we mentioned earlier, fruits and vegetables are high in fiber. They’re also lower in calories and have plenty of antioxidants. Cardiologists often recommend a plant-based diet for their patients with hypertension. Nearly 1 in 3 Americans have developed high blood pressure and it’s a leading cause of stroke and heart attack. Clinical trials have shown that the potassium found in many fruits and veggies help lower blood pressure and regulate it over time.

National guidelines recommend getting 4,700 milligrams of potassium each day. That may sound like a lot, but it amounts to about 2.5 cups of vegetables and 2 cups of fruit each day. What foods are the best? Here are our top picks:

  • Bananas
  • Tomatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Beet greens
  • Beans
  • Prunes
  • Carrots
  • Soybeans
  • Winter squash

Develop a Weight Loss Plan – Slow and Steady Wins the Race

Did you know that a waistline exceeding 40 inches in diameter can be a serious health risk for men as they age? Many men become content with a bit of a gut as they get older, but it actually puts extra stress on your heart. Working to keep off that excess body fat is an important aspect of keeping your heart healthy.

Just remember that weight loss should be a gradual process. Studies have shown that extreme weight loss can be very unhealthy for the body. Those results are very hard to maintain and the extreme measures required to achieve those rapid results can come with a whole new set of risks.

If you want to improve your overall fitness the right way, we recommend first making a solid and sustainable weight loss plan. This could include a new dietary regimen or a new workout plan (or both). The key is to not overdo it when starting out. Many people get all excited about the prospect of starting a new health routine and end up trying to do too much right off the bat– this is not a sustainable approach.

Women getting intense about her workout regimen.

Remember slow and steady wins the race…

You’ll be surprised with the results you’ll see if you can stick to your new regimen. In fact, overall health improves in men after just a 5 to 10 percent drop in weight.

Working Out for Your Heart

With work, family and social plans, your week can easily become jam packed. This is still not a good excuse for avoiding exercise. If you’ve worked to improve your diet, you’re getting more fiber and eating less saturated fats and sodium, than regular exercise is the last piece of the puzzle. Clinical studies have repeatedly shown just how important this is for your body, especially as you age.

You don’t need to overdo it either. We recommend getting at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise 5 days a week. If you can make that into a routine, you might soon find yourself increasing your workout times and diversifying your routines. Here are just some of the ways you can stay active each week:

  • Go for a jog around the block
  • Go for a walk after dinner or in the morning
  • Dust off the bike and go for a ride
  • Sign up for a dance class with your significant other
  • Get a gym membership and do some strength training
  • Go to a yoga class

There are many, many ways that you can stay active and keep things fresh and exciting. By making your heart healthy routine an exciting part of your day, you’ll be much more likely to succeed and reach your goals. We can’t think of a better time to start than Men’s Health Month.