Who wants to work out in this heat? Not us! Thankfully, there are simpler, study-proven ways to protect your ticker and lower blood pressure.
1. Your Happy Memories Slash Your Risk of Heart Disease!
Tapping into the power of positivity warms your heart and gives it a healthful boost. Recalling cheerful memories, like the day you adopted your dog or attended a fun family reunion, quashes your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol. This helps your liver better regulate its production of triglycerides, or troublesome blood fat, which is something Yale University researchers say reduces your risk of heart disease and stroke by as much as 50 percent!
2. Ward Off Diabetes by Sunbathing
Lazing in the sun while you read a book or chat on the phone with a friend is more than just a fun break from the daily grind — it shields against type 2 diabetes too! A study in PLOS ONE revealed that people with healthy blood levels of the “sunshine vitamin,” vitamin D, were a whopping three times less likely to develop diabetes than those who were deficient in the vitamin. Investigators suspect vitamin D works its magic by improving the body’s sensitivity to insulin.
3. Snack on Peanut Butter
Its monounsaturated fats help muscle cells burn blood sugar for fuel, while its oleic acid improves insulin sensitivity. Plus, a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating four tablespoons daily cuts your risk of blood-sugar spikes in half.
4. Tame High Cholesterol with Watermelon
That slice of sweet, juicy watermelon you just enjoyed is a boon for your heart! Noshing on this summer favorite daily can lower your cholesterol by as much as 63 percent within one month, according to investigators reporting in the journal Nutrition Research. Credit watermelon’s rich stores of lycopene, an antioxidant pigment that gives the fruit its pretty red hue and prevents heart-hampering plaque buildup, as well as a potent compound called citrulline, which helps widen blood vessels.
5. Savor a Cup of Coffee
Great news! Your fresh-brewed coffee is already keeping your cholesterol in check. A new Swedish study found that coffee filters whisk away chemicals that raise your triglyceride and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. It works so well that scientists found women who sipped filtered coffee daily had a significantly lower risk of fatal heart disease than those who drank no coffee at all.
6. Outsmart Strokes by Hitting Snooze
Logging sufficient shut-eye noticeably curbs a person’s risk of suffering a stroke compared to folks who don’t get enough sleep, say New York University Langone Medical Center scientists. Inadequate sleep contributes to endothelial dysfunction, when the inner lining of small arteries fail to do their job of preventing blood clots. Can’t sleep in? Naps count toward your daily total too!
7. Sip Spa Water
Drinking 16 ounces of water every three waking hours thins blood to ward off clots, cutting the risk of fatal stroke by 30 percent, say Japanese scientists.
8. Lower Your Blood Pressure with a Campfire
Unwinding around a crackling fire in your backyard firepit (s’mores optional!) can lower your systolic blood pressure (top number) by SIX points and your diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) by THREE points in just 15 minutes, University of Alabama scientists say. Gazing at a roaring fire increases the body’s production of brain chemicals that ease the anxiety that ticks up your blood pressure. Rainy day? Researchers report you can get the same benefit by watching an online video of a campfire instead!
9. Take Your Meds Before Bed
Instead of taking blood-pressure medication at breakfast, take it at bedtime. A study in the European Heart Journal found this incredibly simple timing tweak reduces your heart attack risk by 44 percent.
10. Trim Down by Tapping
Washington University scientists say losing 10 percent of your total body weight prevents plaque buildup in your arteries that contributes to heart disease. And a study in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine found fidgeting, like tapping your fingers, ups calorie burn by 30 percent. That’s enough to burn 350 calories daily and drop 30 pounds a year.
11. Lower the Volume
A study in Food Quality and Preference shows being able to hear yourself chew increases awareness of how much you’re eating, cutting overindulging by 43 percent.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.