Heart disease remains the leading cause of death, and a major cause of disability, in the United States. But if you are heart-wise, you can significantly reduce your risk for heart disease and live a long and healthy life.
Prevent heart disease with these five, heart-healthy habits.
Take the stairs instead of the elevator or escalator. Walk or ride your bike to your favorite coffee shop. Do jumping jacks while watching tv. Go hiking. Swim a few times a week. Aim for at least 30 minutes of continuous physical activity, at least 3 times a week. You can start by dividing the 30 minutes into 10 to 15-minute sessions. And you don’t even have to join a gym or pick up a sport. You can simply start walking more.
According to a MayoClinic.org article, the Department of Health and Human Services recommend “150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.”
Eat to your heart’s content.
This means eating for your heart, of course! Avoiding your guilty cravings is easier said than done. But as long as most of your diet consists of whole foods, especially fresh fruits and vegetables, and you exercise regularly, you can indulge in some unhealthy foods once or twice a week. After all, deprivation will only make you less likely to commit to a healthy diet.
What you should avoid or keep to a bare minimum are processed foods, refined carbohydrates, and saturated and trans fats. These are not only bad for your heart’s health, but also for your overall health.
If you want to adopt a heart-healthy diet plan, you can try the Mediterranean diet or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet.
Being overweight or obese – carrying extra pounds around your midsection, in particular – is one of the major risk factors for heart disease. If you are able to maintain a healthy weight through regular exercise and a healthy diet, then you’re already doing three of the most impactful strategies to prevent heart disease.
An article on the Harvard Health Publishing website mentions that, “losing just 5% to 10% of your starting weight can make a big difference in your blood pressure and blood sugar.”
Tobacco must go; alcohol, maybe.
If you’re a smoker, this is one unhealthy habit you really have to quit. If you’re a non-smoker, avoid secondhand smoke as much as you can. Smoking harms your heart in a number of ways; chemicals in tobacco can cause damage to your blood vessels and plaque buildup; carbon monoxide increases blood pressure when it replaces oxygen in the blood and forces the heart to pump harder.
But studies have shown that quitting smoking leads to immediate improvements in overall health, including a significant reduction in your risk for heart disease. Heart damage caused by tobacco can be reversed if you kick the habit in the butt and start living a healthier lifestyle.
When it comes to drinking alcohol, on the other hand, moderation is key. Recent research has revealed that red wine may offer benefits for heart health. But you must keep in mind that drinking too much alcohol is still a hazard to your health. The aforementioned Mayo Clinic online article also shares that “up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger” is safe. “ One drink is defined as 12 ounces (355 milliliters, or mL) of beer, 5 ounces of wine (148 mL), or 1.5 fluid ounces (44mL) of 80-proof distilled spirits.”
Visit a primary care physician for regular physicals. This is even more important if you have a history of heart disease in your family. Getting regular screenings is the only way to find out for sure what your risks are by the numbers, and what actions you need to take to lower your risks and prevent heart disease.
To better assess your heart disease risks, your physical checkups should include screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and diabetes.
The old adage, “Prevention is better than cure,” is one of the best rules to live by if you want to enjoy a long and healthy life. And the best time to start being more heart-wise is now. Visit one of HOMA Family Medicine’s top-rated primary care physicians in Montgomery Village Gaithersburg and Germantown today; your heart will thank you for it!