Heart disease is the number one cause of death around the world and the #1 killer of people in the United States, claiming about 375,000 lives each year.
But despite these statistics, many places have far lower rates including France, Japan and Korea, and also in a traditional culture from the Amazon Rain Forest named the Tsimanes, who have the healthiest hearts on the planet according to the National Institutes on Aging.
There is much to learn from the societies who protect their hearts the best. Here are six tips Americans and others would do well to learn from.
Six tips from people with the world’s healthies thearts
The little things often matter most when it comes to heart health.
Making healthy choices has a cumulative effect that can turn an unhealthy heart into a strong one.
The following are key takeaways and tips from the most heart healthy societies on Earth:
1. Walking Matters. A Lot-
The Tsimane people in the Amazon Rain Forest have lived in health for centuries while preserving their culture, language and heritage.
They surprisingly eat a high-starch, high-inflammatory diet, much like the vast majority of Americans. Yet according to researchers, the average member in his 80s has the same “vascular age” as an American in their mid-50s.
For them, walking plays a huge role. They typically trek over 7 miles per day.
Walking is also a major factor in the health of heart-healthy French, Japanese and Korean people.
2. Eat Fermented Foods-
Fermented foods are making a comeback in the U.S.
No kitchen is complete without them!
3. Eat Smaller Portions-
In traditional Japanese society there’s a saying, “hara hachi bu,” which means to eat until you’re 80% full.
When you slow down and eat smaller and more varied portions, you also taste and enjoy your food more.
4. Stand More-
Apart from simply moving and walking more, standing also offers benefits for heart health.
According to a Canadian Fitness survey, people who stand for most of the day had a 33 percent lower mortality rate than those who sat.
5. Relax and de-stress-
While many Americans busy themselves with work, school activities for their kids, highly stimulating movies and foods, and other distractions, “self care” is paramount to most of the world’s most heart healthy people.
Meditation and prayer are among the most important activities for hearty-healthy Japanese cultures and even the Seventh Day Adventists in California, who are among the world’s longest living people.
6. Alcohol in Moderation-
Researchers have long wondered about the French Paradox, a name given to the phenomenon of the country’s high consumption of saturated fat and low levels of coronary heart disease.
Society and lifestyle could have a lot to do with it. Many have attempted to explain it, but a diet based on Mediterranean cuisine (including high Omega-3’s from fish) and moderate consumption of red wine could play a major part.
“The trick is to drink one to two glasses per day,” says Dan Buettner in his book The Blue Zones Solution, “with friends and/or food…Moderate drinkers outlive non-drinkers.”
While many of these strategies can be helpful for heart health, it’s important to keep in mind that the way you feel and how you do things is just as important as what you do.
Avoid items like trans fats, fried foods, isolating yourself from friends and family, and sitting too long. Find what you enjoy and do it for a living. If you’re stuck in a job you don’t like, do your best to find the good each and every day and make a plan for leaving.
Mainstream medicine still views the heart in an extremely mechanical way, but there are secrets to its power and what keeps a heart healthy that are still being unlocked, as illustrated by Baptist de Pape of the Heartmath Institute.
It has just as much to do with feeling and keep your spirits high as it does your day-to-day routine according to de Pape.
“The language of the heart is feeling,” de Pape said.
“When you follow your heart, you listen not to your head, but to what you feel is right.”