How to Minimize Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease continues to be the top cause of death, therefore awareness, education, and individual and corporate efforts to make health choices in support of heart health are important ways to change this fact. A great place to start is for you to schedule a visit to your family doctor. If you don't have one, then now's the time to research and find one that you feel good with. Regardless of gender, age, ethnicity or health, starting with a doctor's visit to check your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and risk for diabetes is an excellent beginning. We go over the main components of a healthy heart plan below.
- Regular Exercise. Start where you are to make your progress realistic and your goals achievable. If you do not exercise, begin with an honest assessment of what is doable. Determine whether going for one walk on the weekend for the first month is a way to ease in, or whether it suits your schedule and personality more to do a short 10 min walk 3 times a week in the morning. Your goal is to reach at least 30 minutes of daily activity, but get there in a way and at a pace that is right for you!
- Clean Eating. This point is always repeated because it truly does make that vital a difference in your heart health. Cooking low-fat and low-sodium meals at home will help improve your blood pressure, prevent artery buildup, and keep your heart healthy. Educate yourself on the basics of heart-healthy nutrition, especially the difference between plant-based good fats (nuts, avocado, olive oil) and unhealthy fats. Aim to replace sugars, red meat, fried and fatty food with vegetables, fruit, lean meat, fish, and whole grains.
Avoid smoking. The chemicals from tobacco may harm your blood vessels and contribute to atherosclerosis. Smoking is one of the greatest risk factors that is associated with heart disease, and your risk increases with the frequency and longevity of your smoking. If you already have or are at risk for high blood pressure, the carbon monoxide from cigarettes lowers your blood oxygen levels and further raises your blood pressure. No matter how many times you have attempted quitting, it is well worth your effort to keep at it. Removing quitting makes a significant improvement towards a healthier heart.
- Weight Management. Maintaining a healthy weight is very helpful for preventing heart disease. Specifically, keeping weight off of your midsection is important since extra weight around your abdomen is correlated with higher blood sugar, higher blood pressure and higher chances of heart disease. If you carry weight in your middle, or struggle with being overweight, discuss with your doctor what to address and how. For some, stress and poor diet are the issues to tackle, while for others a health condition or certain medications could be behind the extra weight.
- High Quality Sleep. Last but not least, don't forget how crucial sleep is to your health. A lack of sleep (both hours and quality) affects your hormones, appetite, stress levels, and puts you at a higher risk for weight gain, diabetes, depression, and heart attack. Typically, adults need 7-9 hours of sleep every night. If you have trouble reaching those hours, assess what factors you can change to create a better sleep environment.
We hope that these 5 points have given you an idea of what area(s) you can make healthy changes to. Talk to your doctor about the right heart health plan for you. Depending on what health conditions you are managing, your doctor may prescribe medication or suggest a certain area to focus on to improve your heart health.