You can prevent heart disease by following a heart-healthy lifestyle. Here are strategies to help you protect your heart.
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death, but it is not inevitable. Although you can’t change some risk factors, like family history or age, there are many ways to lower your risk of heart disease.
Get started with these seven tips to improve your heart health:
Do not smoke or use tobacco
One of the best things you can do for your heart is to quit smoking. Even if you’re not a smoker, be sure to avoid second-hand smoke.
The chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels. Cigarette smoke reduces the oxygen in your blood, which increases your blood pressure and heart rate because your heart has to work harder to supply enough oxygen to your body and brain.
When you quit smoking, your risk of heart disease begins to decrease from the first day after quitting. After a year without cigarettes, your risk of heart disease drops to about half that of a smoker. No matter how long or how much you’ve smoked, you’ll start reaping benefits as soon as you quit.
Get moving: Aim for at least 30-60 minutes of activity per day
Regular daily physical activity can reduce your risk of heart disease. Physical activity helps you control your weight and lower your chances of developing other conditions that can put a strain on your heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.
If you haven’t been active for a while, you may need to slowly resume physical activity, but you should aim for at least:
150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking
75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, such as running
Two or more strength training sessions per week
Even shorter bouts of activity provide cardiac benefits, so if you can’t meet these guidelines, don’t give up. Just five minutes of walking can help, and activities such as gardening, housekeeping, taking the stairs and walking the dog count towards the activity total. You don’t need to engage in vigorous exercise to get benefits, but you can see greater effects by increasing the intensity, duration, and frequency of your physical activity sessions.
Eat a heart-healthy diet
A healthy diet can help protect your heart, improve your blood pressure and cholesterol, and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. A heart-healthy eating plan includes:
- Vegetables and fruits
- Beans or other legumes
- Lean meats and fish
- Whole grains
- Healthy fats, like olive oil
- The DASH and Mediterranean diets are excellent heart-healthy dietary approaches.
- Limit intake of the following:
- processed carbohydrates
Saturated fats (found in red meat and high-fat dairy products) and trans fats (found in fried foods, chips, processed foods)
Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight, especially around the waist, increases your risk of heart disease. Being overweight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of developing heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.
To find out if your weight is healthy, calculate your body mass index (BMI), which uses your height and weight to determine whether you have a healthy or unhealthy percentage of body fat. A BMI of 25 or more is considered overweight and is generally associated with higher cholesterol, higher blood pressure, increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Waist circumference can also be a useful tool for measuring how much abdominal fat you have. Your risk of heart disease is higher if your waist measurement is greater than:
101.6 centimeters for men
88.9 cm for women
Even a small weight loss can be beneficial. Reducing your weight by just 3% to 5% can help lower certain fats in your blood (triglycerides), lower your blood sugar (glucose), and reduce your risk of type 2 diabetes. Losing even more helps lower your blood pressure and your blood cholesterol level.
Get good quality sleep
A lack of sleep can do more than make you yawn. It can harm your health. People who don’t get enough sleep have a higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes and depression.
Most adults need at least seven hours of sleep each night. Make sleep a priority in your life. Establish a sleep schedule and stick to it by going to bed and waking up at the same times each day. Keep your bedroom dark and quiet and at a temperature of 19-20°.
To manage stress
Some people deal with stress in unhealthy ways, compensating with overeating, alcohol, or smoking. Find other ways to manage stress, such as physical activity, relaxation exercises, or meditation.
Get regular health checkups
High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage your heart and blood vessels. But without a test to measure them, you probably won’t know if you have these negative parameters. Regular screening will tell you what your numbers are and if you need to take action.
Starting at age 18, your blood pressure should be measured at least once every two years to screen for high blood pressure as a risk factor for heart disease and stroke. People aged 40 and older should also have a blood pressure test every year.
Adults should have cholesterol tests at least once every four to six years. Earlier testing should be recommended if you have other risk factors, such as a family history of early heart disease.
Screening for type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease. If you have risk factors for diabetes, such as being overweight or a family history of diabetes, your doctor may recommend early screening. If your weight is normal and you have no other risk factors for type 2 diabetes, screening is recommended from age 45, with retesting every three years.
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