While heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, it’s also largely preventable. While there are risk factors for heart disease you can’t change, such as age, ethnicity, or family history of cardiac issues, you have control over others. These are the best ways to lower your risk for heart disease, especially if you are a man older than age 45, or a women older than age 55. Remember, it’s never too early to practice healthy habits.
If You Smoke, Quit
Tobacco use is one of the biggest contributing factors for heart disease. The chemicals in tobacco damage the heart and blood vessels, while the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke contributes to high blood pressure and increased heart rate. There are many ways to quit and you can keep trying until you find a method that works for you.
Get Enough Exercise
For most people, that means working out at moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. Not only does exercise keep your heart healthy, it also helps you lose weight–and obesity is a big risk factor for heart disease. Carve out time in your schedule for a quick bike ride or walk around the block. Working out with friends is also a great way to motivate yourself and make it a habit.
Eat a Heart Healthy Diet
Focus on whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins, and avoid foods with saturated fat. These include red meat, full fat dairy, fast food, sweets, and packaged snack foods. Talk to your doctor about ways you can help balance your diet and ways to cut out the excess.
Lose Weight if Necessary
According to the ICE, Institute of Cardiovascular Excellence, maintaining a healthy BMI, or body mass index, helps prevent heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. Following steps 2 and 3 above is a great start if you need to lose a few pounds; even reducing your weight by 5 to 10 percent can help.
Get Enough Sleep
Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Not getting enough quality rest contributes to obesity, heart disease, and other chronic health conditions. Make your schedule work to fit around your bedtime.
Have Recommended Health Screenings
Knowing your cholesterol, body mass index, and blood pressure numbers will allow you to determine when you’re at risk for heart disease. Have regular screenings through your primary care physician or at a cardiovascular clinic. If you have already been diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, follow your doctor’s instructions and take medications as prescribed to reduce your heart disease risk.
Drink Alcohol Only in Moderation
This means a limit of two drink per day for men younger than age 65, and one drink per day for women and older men. A drink is considered one eight ounce beer, four ounce glass of wine, or ounce of hard liquor.
Heart disease and heart problems are some of the main killers in America today. Do your part to change your lifestyle and habits to help prevent your risks.