Like all the intricate machinery in your body, your heart needs the right maintenance if it’s going to continue to perform optimally. Learn the lucky numbers that lie at the heart of cardiac health.
Lucky Number #1: A Resting Heart Rate Below 90
You can determine your resting heart rate by counting the number of beats of your pulse per one minute. This number is a barometer of what’s going on in the body. A slower resting heart rate means that your heart is more powerful and efficient. Conversely, a higher heart rate indicates that your heart has to work harder to get the same things done. Studies have shown that women with a resting heart rate over 90 have triple the risk of dying from a heart attack as women with a resting heart rate under 60.
Luckily, there are things you can do to stabilize your resting heart rate. One of the main reasons your heart rate speeds up is to fight inflammation. Instead of letting your heart do all the work, add omega-3s to your diet. In addition to helping lower cholesterol, these supplements provide anti-inflammatory benefits. Inflammation can also be emotional. In these situations, reduce your stress. Stress-proof your body in 5 steps!
Your heart rate is also an indicator of your stamina level. You must exercise the muscle of the heart to keep it strong. During cardio workouts, you should aim to hit 80% of your maximum heart rate. You can calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. For example, the target heart rate for a 30-year-old would be 190(.8) = 152. Reaching this heart rate for 20 minutes, 3 times a week will work to strengthen your heart.
Lucky Number #2: 1.5 Grams of Sodium Allowed Daily
You should consume less than 1 teaspoon of salt a day, especially if you are over 50. On average, Americans consume more than double this amount. Sodium is harmful to your heart, kidneys and blood vessels. Additionally, it raises your blood pressure which makes your heart work faster and can lead to heart disease.
Most people don’t realize how much sodium is in their food. Learn more about hidden sources of salt in your diet, or get flavorful, salt-free recipes.
Lucky Number #3: A Maximum of 100 Calories of Added Sugar Each Day
High intake of added sugar leads to obesity and puts you on track for heart disease and stroke. Even if you are not concerned about your weight, eating sugar directly impacts cholesterol and increases your blood pressure. This causes rigidity in the aorta and puts extra strain on your heart.
Sugar is another case where you may not realize how much you are actually eating. It can be disguised in the ingredients, so keep a vigilant eye for items like evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup and brown rice syrup. Make sure to read the nutrition label to find the amount of added sugars. Take Dr. Oz’s Sugar Detox Challenge.
Lucky Number #4: 25 Grams of Fiber Each Day
Study after study is showing that the more fiber you get in your diet, the more you are protected from heart attacks. Fiber acts like a magnet in your intestines; it pulls the cholesterol through your digestive system, eliminating waste before it can be absorbed in your bloodstream. Fiber allows you to deposit cholesterol in the toilet, instead of in your arteries.
To get fiber into your diet, eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables and buy 100% whole grain bread and pasta. Click here to learn about how to integrate high-fiber foods into your diet.
Lucky Number #5: 1 Alcoholic Drink Per Day
Alcohol in moderation can provide great benefits for your heart. Red wine is made with dark grapes, which have polyphenol antioxidants in their skins that help protect the lining of the heart’s blood vessels. Beer has high levels of vitamin B6, which can help prevent the build-up of a harmful chemical, homocysteine, that can cause heart disease.
Lucky Number #6: 0 Trans Fats Each Day
Trans fats are found in commercial baked goods like cakes, cookies and crackers, along with fried foods like doughnuts and French fries. They are included because their chemical structure makes them stable for long periods of time at room temperature. Originally, they were designed for candle wax.
Trans fats wreak havoc on your body. They decrease your “good” HDL cholesterol while increasing your “bad” LDL cholesterol. They also cause plaque buildup in your arteries, damage arterial cells, and generally increase inflammation.
The scariest part is that you may be eating trans fats and not even know it. In the US, food companies are not required to list trans fats in products if they contain less than 0.5 grams per serving. Look out for common culprits like margarine, shortenings, microwave popcorn, peanut butter and coffee creamer.
Lucky Number #7: The Maximum Number You Should Have on a Hemoglobin A1C Test is 6
The hemoglobin A1C Test measures your blood sugar levels from the past 2-3 months. Hemoglobin is a protein found in your red blood cells. These red blood cells live in your body for 3 months at a time. The Hemoglobin A1C Test measures how much sugar has gotten stuck to the protein in your blood in the past 2-3 months, which makes it a better indicator than testing your blood sugar, which measures only the sugar in what you ate that day.
If your Hemoglobin A10 results are 6% or higher, you may have insulin resistance – a condition where your body cannot correctly use the insulin, a hormone made by your pancreas, to convert glucose to energy. Insulin resistance is considered a precursor to type 2 diabetes. Although there are no discernable symptoms of insulin resistance, it is associated with fat accumulation around your belly, referred to as the omentum. Historically, the omentum stored calories so that, in times of famine, the liver has easy access to the calories. When you have a large, fatty omentum, it leaks chemicals into your liver, which can be very dangerous for your heart.
Lower your blood sugar levels by adding lemon juice to what you’re eating. The juice will make it easier for your body to process the sugars in your foods. You can also try adding half a teaspoon a day of cinnamon to your meals. It increases your body’s sensitivity to insulin. Additionally, a daily 200 mcg chromium supplement has been shown to decrease insulin resistance.