World Heart Day comes every September, and we’re always here to support what we can to help people take better care of their heart. In this short post we want to show you ways to reduce your risk of heart disease not tomorrow, not next week, but TODAY!

When we talk about lowering your risk of heart disease, it sounds like an intimidating and time-consuming task that will take years before you see results. And while it takes consistency, there are steps you can take today.

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When it comes to protecting yourself against heart problems, there is no time like the present to change harmful habits, focus on your health, and become more mindful of day-today living.

Here’s a really helpful list of 12 ways to reduce your risk of heart disease.

1) Decide to Stop Smoking

While actually quitting may take some time, decide to quit and take steps toward that today. Nicotine withdrawal and addiction are what become hard to kick, but making the decision is what gets you started.

This is where doctors and new habits come in. Consider a non-smoking patch, gum, or a new healthy habit that takes the place of smoking.

If you’re having trouble making this decision, here’s something you should know:

Smoking damages the walls of your arteries, creates the perfect environment for artery blockage, and contributes strongly to your risk of heart disease. In fact, about 20 percent of all deaths by heart disease in America, are 100 percent related to tobacco use and cigarette use.

2) Do Some Exercise

Our world is less aerobic than ever, and this doesn’t help the cause to prevent heart disease. Doctors recommend at least 20 minutes of moderate physical activity every day to help lower the risk of heart disease.

Studies have shown improvements in physical fitness over six years are linked to lowering the risk of death in general by 15 percent, and the risk of death by heart disease or stroke by 19 percent.

Physical activity begins with committing to more movement throughout your day. If you took a 5-minute walking break every hour throughout your workday, you’ll have done 40 minutes of physical exercise by the time you leave work.

However you choose to break up your daily activity, remember it adds up so do something today.

3) Clean Out The Kitchen

Guess what else you can do today that will automatically improve tomorrow’s health? Go through your kitchen and throw out all of the following:

-frozen meals and processed foods such as boxed mac and cheese, canned soup, lunchables, snack cakes, etc.
-salty snacks like crackers, chips, and lunch meat
-bad fats found in red meat and dairy products
-regular AND diet sodas

And when you’ve kissed all those unhealthy foods goodbye, you can replace them with:

-whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, oats, and whole wheat bread
-salmon, chicken , other lean meat
-fresh fruits and veggies, but especially citrus fruits and leafy greens
-olive oil, coconut oil
-low fat dairy products

4) Cut Caffeine

You don’t have to deprive yourself entirely! All we’re saying is if you’re drinking 3-5 cups of coffee a day, you should probably take it down to 1 or 2 cups (or none at all! But, baby steps.)

This is because caffeine is one of the dietary factors that revs your blood pressure up and puts strain and stress on your heart.

5) Skip The Bar

While the occasional beer or glass of red wine is fine, exceeding 2 drinks per day pushes the limits and puts your body at risk for high blood sugar levels and high triglyceride levels that contribute to plaque build-up and artery blockage.

Alcohol is also a contributor to stress, like caffeine. When your body is under the influence of alcohol, it responds like it would respond to mental stress.

6) Manage Your Stress

Speaking of stress . . . it’s a serious issue to consider when it comes to your heart. Stress triggers a physiological reaction involving the stress hormone cortisol, which messes with your insulin and blood sugar levels, and might cause your body to store excess sugar in the form of fat.

Mental stress also puts your heart under stress, as your heart rate rises, your breathing becomes heavier, and your cardiovascular system works harder to get oxygen to the bodily tissues.

Try relieving stress by getting more sleep, staying organized, and by committing an hour a day to unwind and do something you enjoy.

7) Get Ready To DASH

Not the 400 meter. We’re talking about the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension Diet. If you’re unsure how to change your eating habits for the better, the DASH diet is a great place to start.

It’s designed to help reduce sodium and harmful fats from your nutrition plan, giving you guidelines and standards on how to eat fresh, heart-healthy foods.

8) Know Your Numbers

Learn more about what blood pressure and cholesterol readings mean today! Understanding those numbers and what they mean for your health is key to taking ownership of your heart health.

Education is the first step to change, re-evaluating goals and lifestyles, and empowerment.

Here’s a quick run-through of some important numbers:

• Heart rate → normal adult heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute (BPM). Check your heart rate by taking your pulse at your wrist or the side of your neck, and counting the beats for a total of 1 minute.

• Blood Pressure → Normal, healthy blood pressure is considered 120/80 mmHg. Anything above this is considered pre-hypertensive or hypertensive! Your blood pressure measurement determines how hard your heart is having to work to pump blood through your arteries. Take your blood pressure with a personal monitor, or with regular doctor’s visits!

• Cholestero l→ Less than 200 mg per dL (deciliter) of blood is the ideal cholesterol level. Bordeline risk is a cholesterol measurement of 200-239 mg/dL, and anything over 240 mg/dl is high risk.

9) See Your Doctor

We know doctor’s visits are not the most enjoyable occasions. However, your doctor is your friend. He or she takes genuine interest and concern when it comes to your health, and is a resource for medical care and advice.

Establishing a good relationship with a doctor you like and feel comfortable with is key to receiving quality healthcare that will help you live a longer, stronger life.

Of course, the other component of good health care is being consistent, showing up for your appointments, and following your doctor’s orders.

10) Consider Supplements

A balance of healthy diet and exercise is key, but ensuring that your body has all the necessary nutrients is also very important!

Nutrients like B vitamins, folic acid, l-arginine, and l-citrulline have been under extensive research, and may help improve your blood pressure and heart health in general.

If you’re considering supplements, talk to your doctor (see #9) about what nutrients you need the most and the best way to get them in your diet.