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A Change of Heart

Your valentine shouldn’t get all the attention this February. Amid the red roses, chocolates, and overstuffed teddy bears, take time to show your ticker some love too.

According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular diseases are more deadly than all other forms of cancer combined.

In honor of Heart Month, commit to improving your health and get serious about beating the odds with these research-based tips.

1. Move It

A healthy heart needs a daily workout. To make exercise a hard habit to break, create external reminders. An Iowa State University professor recently found that establishing an instigation habit, like setting a daily alarm to remind you to go to the gym after work, can make exercise more automatic.

2. Scale Back

Shedding pounds can ease the burden on your heart. And research says the faster you drop the excess weight, the better. Participants in an Australian study were more likely to achieve and maintain their goals if they lost weight rapidly compared to their peers who took a more gradual approach to trimming down.

3. Big Drink

Most Americans know good nutrition is important, but many don’t notice the hidden danger lurking in their cupholders. In a recent study, guzzling diet soda was directly connected to increased belly fat in adults sixty-five and older. The findings raise concerns about the link between zero-calorie drinks and metabolic disorders.

4. Under Pressure

Keeping your blood pressure in the normal range—less than 120/80—is key for maintaining a healthy heart and preventing disease. One way to achieve this goal: take a nap. A recent Greek study found that sneaking in a midday snooze could lower blood pressure as well as reduce the need for hypertension medications.

5. Fat Chance

Heart disease and diabetes often go hand in hand. But the fight against elevated glucose may have an unlikely ally: heptadecanoic acid, a saturated fat found in butter and some fish. A recent study found that insulin levels in prediabetic dolphins were able to normalize after the marine mammals consumed more of the fatty acid.

6. Green Stuff

Time to stop skimping on your greens—keeping bad cholesterol in check might be as simple as eating your veggies. British scientists have spent fourteen years developing a fat-fighting broccoli that has been shown to reduce LDL by 6 percent in twelve weeks. It’s available under the name Beneforté in select US grocery stores.

7. Fresh Squeeze

Whether your vice is a multitiered burger, sugary doughnuts, or a fresh-baked cake, clenching your fists can give you an extra dose of self-control against these vices—and a healthier heart. A 2010 study found that individuals who tighten their muscles when faced with a tempting treat increase their willpower to stick with their health goals.

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Written by Madison Nield

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