February is American Heart Month! Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, claiming the lives of about 647,000 Americans yearly. Heart disease refers to a variety of conditions, such as coronary artery disease, which can cause heart attacks and is the most common kind. Asides from understanding your risk of heart disease, there are many steps you can take to reduce your risk of getting it. These tips for a heart-healthy lifestyle will guide you to a happier and healthier future.
Are You At Risk?
The first step towards a heart-healthy lifestyle is understanding your risk of heart disease. In general, people more at risk have high blood pressure or cholesterol or are overweight. Additionally, those with an unhealthy diet or unhealthy physical habits are at risk. For example, those who don’t engage in regular physical activity are more likely to develop heart disease. Furthermore, heart disease can run in the family. If you have a family history in which your mother was diagnosed with heart disease before 65 or your father before 55, you run the risk as well. Lastly, tobacco use can increase your risk of heart disease. Luckily if you are aware of the factors that put you at risk, you are able to make changes in your everyday life that lead to heart-healthy habits.
Get Up and Move
An easy way to lower your risk of heart disease is to get active. Studies show that sitting for long periods of time is bad for your health. If you sit at a desk all day, try to break up the amount of time you remain seated by going on a short walk. Incorporate more time to move in your day, such as parking further away from your destination so you have to walk. Regular physical activity can not only help to lose excess weight and improve physical fitness but also lowers many heart disease risk factors such as cholesterol and blood pressure. Grab a friend and go for a walk or bike ride. When you find something that you enjoy spending your time doing, it won’t feel like you’re working out!
Switch Up Your Diet
There are many foods that can benefit your heart health that you may not even be aware of! What we put into our bodies has an impact on our risk of heart disease. For example, a diet high in saturated and trans fats, along with added sugar can lead to an increased risk of heart disease. Some fats, such as saturated, polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats, are beneficial to our bodies. However, trans fats found in baked goods, snack foods, and fast food are the kind of fats you should avoid. Some heart-healthy foods include fish that are high in omega 3 fatty acids like salmon or tuna, seeds like flax or chia seeds, and leafy greens like kale and spinach. Additionally, berries, healthy nuts like almonds, and legumes like beans and lentils are good for your heart health. By incorporating these kinds of foods into your everyday diet, you are taking steps to reduce your risk of heart disease.
Cut Back on Some Habits
Along with tobacco use, alcohol consumption can raise blood pressure levels, increasing the risk of heart disease. Alcohol in moderation is acceptable. For women that means no more than one drink a day, and for men, no more than 2. However, excessive drinking is linked to high blood pressure and obesity, both of which are risk factors for heart disease. In addition to excessive alcohol intake, tobacco products and even second-hand smoke can increase your risk of heart disease. Smoking cigarettes can damage the heart and blood vessels, and nicotine can raise blood pressure. Additionally, exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of heart disease. Chemicals emitted from cigarette smoke can increase the development of plaque in the arteries according to Cleveland Clinic. Knowing and understanding these risk factors may help you make the changes necessary in your life to prevent heart disease.
It’s important to be aware of your risk of heart disease and understanding different factors that play into it. Focusing on improving your diet, exercising more, and cutting out unhealthy habits will lead to a heart-healthy lifestyle.
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