In 2017, heart disease accounted for one out of every three deaths and is the leading killer of both men and women in the US.
Certain risk factors for heart disease like your age and family history can’t be changed. However, there are things you can do to decrease and manage your risks for heart disease by making the right lifestyle choices.
And those lifestyle choices need to occur daily to ensure you’re doing your best to take care of your heart.
Here are 7 suggestions:
1. Be physically active
A Harvard study found that watching TV for two hours a day increased the risk of developing heart disease by 15 percent, and additional TV time further increased heart disease risk. The American Heart Association recommends being physically active for at least 30 minutes each day. Regular exercise also speeds weight loss, reduces high blood pressure and stimulates good circulation, all of which benefit your heart. You should also avoid sitting for long periods of time – get up and move every hour for a few minutes. If necessary, find a walking buddy to help you stay committed to getting your daily exercise.
2. Reduce your stress
Stress causes strain on the heart, which creates a higher risk for heart disease. Jeffrey Fisher, MD, a cardiologist, recommends exercise for people experiencing mild to moderate stress. “When people start to exercise and feel the endorphins, they start to feel better both physically and mentally,” he says.”Exercise has also been shown to reduce the risk of death after heart attack.” Another positive practice is meditation to lower your stress. One study found that people with heart disease who meditated had nearly 50 percent less rates of stroke, heart attack, and death compared to those who didn’t meditate. Look at everything on your plate and delegate some responsibilities to others and learn to say no to more tasks when possible. If you have extremely high stress, seek professional mental and medical advice to help manage your stress.
3. Maintain a healthy weight
Weight extremes increase your risk for heart disease. Last year in the US, an estimated 37% of adults were obese. People who are obese often have other health conditions such as diabetes and high cholesterol which affect heart-health. At the other extreme, anorexia causes complications like dangerous heart rhythms and low blood pressure. Maintaining a healthy weight is important to protect your heart from damage and fatigue and encourage good circulation.
4. Eat a healthy diet
Your diet plays a huge role in whether you maintain a healthy weight. It also contributes to high cholesterol. About one in every six American adults has high cholesterol, which increases the risk for heart disease. American Heart Association’s heart-healthy diet guidelines include:
- a variety of fruits and vegetables
- whole grains
- low-fat dairy products
- skinless poultry
- fish high in omega-3s
- nuts and legumes
- non-tropical vegetable oils
Foods you should limit:
- those with saturated and trans fat
- those high in sodium
- red meat (or choose lean cuts)
- sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages
5. Manage high blood pressure
About one in three adults in the US has high blood pressure. Left untreated, high blood pressure causes damage to arteries and therefore the heart. The force of high blood pressure creates tears in the artery walls, which form scar tissue. This scar tissue becomes a trap for plaque buildup thereby increasing the likelihood for dangerous blood clots. So if your blood pressure is too high, talk with your doctor to create a treatment plan to help protect your heart.
6. Control diabetes
Approximately 23.4 million American adults have diabetes, while an estimated 7.6 million American adults have undiagnosed diabetes. Often those that have diabetes are overweight, have high blood pressure and high cholesterol, thus increasing the risk for heart disease. Treatment plans by medical professionals to manage diabetes will include managing blood pressure, cholesterol, and a healthy weight as each of these factors can be connected to diabetes.
7. Stop smoking
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, smoking raises your risk of developing heart disease by two to four times. Smoking causes plaque buildup and hardened arteries, both of which put extra strain on the heart. As soon as a smoker quits, parts of the body to begin to recover from the damage that’s been done. Alleviating stress on the lungs helps reduce stress on the heart. Also, avoid being around dangerous second-hand smoke.
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If you are at risk for or have been diagnosed with heart disease, do your heart a favor and start implementing lifestyle changes that will protect your heart going forward.