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Learning to stay in touch with your body can help you make great strides toward greater mental health.

I have yet to figure out how to choke down a clove of fresh garlic everyday, but I think I’m doing pretty good otherwise:

In honor of Feb being Heart Health month, I am posting some down and dirty bullet points to keep you healthy.

According the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is still the leading cause of death in Americans.

The good news is that small changes in your diet and lifestyle can help to significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.

VITAMIN D AND HEART HEALTH

A study from Finland suggests that the higher your levels of vitamin D, the lower your risks for heart disease and stroke.

This study found that those with the lowest levels of vitamin D had a risk of dying from heart attack and stroke that was 25 percent greater than it was among those with the highest vitamin D levels.

They also observed that the risk of death from stroke was twice as high among participants with the lowest levels of vitamin D than it was among those with the highest levels.

The study was published in the Oct. 15, 2009, issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

FIVE BEST FOODS FOR YOUR HEART

NUTS especially almonds, walnuts, cashews and macadamias contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Eat a moderate portion every day.

WHOLE SOY PROTIEN If you substitute whole soy protein, such as edamame or tofu, for animal protein each day, you can lower levels of homocysteine, a toxic amino acid linked to increased risk of heart disease.

FRESH GARLIC This medicinal herb may help lower cholesterol levels. Use one or two raw or lightly cooked cloves a day.

GREEN TEA It provides EGCG, a polyphenol than may help to moderate inflammation and lower cholesterol. Substitute a cup of heart-healthy green tea for your morning coffee or afternoon soda.

SOLUBLE FIBER It has a powerful cholesterol-lowering effect. Beans, legumes and whole grains are good sources to add to your diet – aim for one or two servings per day.

FOUR LIFESTYLE HABITS FOR A HEALTHY HEART

EXERSIZE Regular physical activity helps maintain the health of blood vessels, strengthens the heart muscle itself and can help reduce heart disease risk associated with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, insulin resistance and stress. Aim for 30 minutes a day of moderate aerobic activity on most days of the week. For individual guidance consult a personal trainer.

LOSE WEIGHT If you are overweight or obese, even modest weight loss can significantly lower risks of cardiovascular disease.

DON’T SMOKE Smoking is the major preventable risk factor for heart disease and has negative health consequences for your entire body, from your tastebuds and energy levels to your skin. Seek support and guidance in quitting.

MANAGE STRESS Uncontrolled stress can raise blood pressure, influence cholesterol and may even increase homocysteine levels. To help manage day-to-day challenges, practice breath work, meditation, guided imagery, visualization or another relaxation technique; participate in regular moderate exercise (including yoga and tai chi); and stay social and laugh often.

This information was gathered from www.drweil.com