Heart disease is the leading cause of death, but it is not inevitable. While you cannot change some risk factors – such as family history, gender, or age – there are many ways you can reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
Get started with these seven tips to boost your heart health:
1 You should not smoke or use tobacco products
One of the best things you can do for your heart is to stop smoking or use smokeless tobacco.
The chemicals in tobacco can damage the heart and blood vessels. Cigarette smoke reduces the oxygen in the blood, which increases blood pressure and heart rate, as the heart has to work harder to provide enough oxygen to your body and mind.
There is good news though. Your risk of developing heart disease begins to decrease in as little as a day after you quit smoking. After a year without cigarettes, the risk of developing heart disease is nearly half the risk for a smoker. No matter how long you smoke, you will start reaping benefits once you quit.
2 Take action: Let your goal be to get active for at least 30 to 60 minutes a day
Regular daily physical activities can reduce the risk of heart disease. Physical activity helps you control your weight and reduce your chances of developing other conditions that may stress your heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.
If you have not been active for a while, you may need to work slowly towards achieving these goals, but in general, you should aim at least:
150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise, such as walking at a brisk pace
75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activities, such as running
Two or more strength training sessions per week
Even shorter periods of activity offer heart benefits. So if you can’t meet these instructions, don’t give up. Just five minutes of movement can help, and activities such as gardening, housekeeping, using the stairs, and walking the dog all count toward your total movement. You don’t need to exercise aggressively to achieve benefits, but you can see greater benefits by increasing the intensity, duration, and frequency of your exercise.
3 Follow a heart-healthy diet
Eating a healthy diet can help protect your heart, improve blood pressure and blood cholesterol, and reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. A heart-healthy eating plan includes:
vegetables and fruits
Beans or other legumes
Lean meat and fish
Low-fat or fat-free dairy products
Healthy fats, such as olive oil
Here are two examples of heart-healthy eating plans, the DASH diet, and the Mediterranean Diet.
Limit intake of the following:
Saturated fats (found in red meat and full-fat dairy products) and unsaturated fats (found in fried junk food, potatoes, and baked goods)
4 Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight – especially around your waist – increases your risk of developing heart disease. Excess weight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of developing heart disease – including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.
One of the methods available to find out if you are at a healthy weight or not is to calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI); It calculates your height and weight to determine if you have a healthy or unhealthy body fat percentage. A BMI of 25 or higher is considered overweight and is generally associated with high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Waist circumference can also be a useful tool for measuring how much belly fat you have. The risk of heart disease is greater if your waist size is greater than:
40 inches (101.6 cm, or cm) for men
35 inches (88.9 cm) for women
Losing even a little weight can be beneficial. Reducing your weight by just 3% to 5% can help reduce some of the fats in your blood (triglycerides), lower your blood sugar (glucose) level, and reduce your risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Losing more weight helps lower your blood pressure and cholesterol level.
5 Get a good sleep
Lack of sleep can do more than leave you yawning. As it may harm your health. People who don’t get enough sleep have an increased risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart attacks, diabetes, and depression.
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 time each day. Keep your bedroom dark and quiet, so falling asleep becomes easier.
If you feel you are getting enough sleep but are still tired throughout the day, ask your doctor if you need to be tested if you have obstructive sleep apnea, Signs of obstructive sleep apnea include loud snoring, short pauses in breathing during sleep, and awakening from sleep in search of air. Treatments for obstructive sleep apnea may include losing weight if you are overweight, or using a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine that keeps the airway open while you sleep.
6 Dealing with stress
Some individuals deal with stress in unhealthy ways, such as overeating, drinking alcohol, or smoking. And finding alternative ways to manage stress – such as physical activities, relaxation exercises, or meditation – may improve your health.
7 Get regular health checks
High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage the heart and blood vessels. But you may not know you have these diseases unless you undergo tests to detect them. Regular checkups can inform you of the results and whether or not you need to take action.
blood pressure. Regular blood pressure checks usually begin in childhood. Starting at age 18, blood pressure should be measured at least once every two years to detect high blood pressure as a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
If you are between 18 and 39 years of age and have risk factors for high blood pressure, you will likely be screened once a year. People age 40 or older also have a yearly blood pressure test.
Cholesterol levels. Adult cholesterol is generally measured at least once every four to six years. A cholesterol test usually begins at age 20, although previous tests may be recommended if you have other risk factors, such as a family history of heart disease that develops early.
Type 2 diabetes screening. Diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease. If you have diabetes risk factors, such as being overweight or having a family history of diabetes, your doctor may recommend an early screening. If you are at a normal weight and do not have other risk factors for type 2 diabetes, testing is recommended starting at age 45, with retesting every three years.
Make sure you take your medications as your doctor prescribes and follow a healthy lifestyle plan.