Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States. Lack of commitment to a heart healthy lifestyle is one of the common reasons for heart disease. Factors like genetics, age, and gender can also increase risk for heart problems. Following a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of heart disease. Here are 8 key lifestyle strategies that can help prevent heart conditions –
- Eat a healthy Diet–Consuming a healthy diet can help protect the heart, improve blood pressure, cholesterol, and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. A heart-healthy diet would include vegetables and fruits, low-fat or fat-free dairy foods, whole grains, lean meats and fish and healthy fats. In addition, limit intake of salt, sugar, processed carbohydrates and saturated fat (found in red meat and full-fat dairy products) and trans fat (found in fried fast food, chips, baked goods).
- Aim for At least 30 minutes of Physical Activity Daily–Research has shown that atleast 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and keep your weight at a healthy level. You don’t have exercise strenuously. Even a few minutes of exercise, climbing stairs, and activities like gardening and housekeeping can help. Slowly increase the intensity, duration and frequency of your daily workout.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight – Being overweight (particularly around the middle of the body) can lead to heart disease. A BMI of 25 or higher is considered overweight and is generally associated with higher cholesterol, higher blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Even a small amount of weight loss can be beneficial. Good nutrition, controlling calorie intake and physical activity are crucial to maintain a healthy weight.
- Avoid/Limit Alcohol – Excessive consumption of alcohol is associated with increased risk of heart disease, blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, and high triglycerides. Heavy drinking can also cause liver diseases, stroke, cancer and other diseases.
- Don’t Smoke or Use Tobacco – One of the best things that people who smoke can do for their heart is to quit. Nonsmokers must take care to avoid secondhand smoke. The harmful chemicals in tobacco can damage the heart and blood vessels. Smoking also reduces the level of oxygen in the blood and increases blood pressure and heart rate. Your risk of heart attack drops dramatically one to two years after quitting, says the American Cancer Society (ACS).
- Manage Stress – High stress often leads to unhealthy coping behaviors such as overeating, drinking or smoking, all high risk factors for heart disease. Managing stress is necessary to lead a more balanced, healthier life.
- Get Good Quality Sleep – People who don’t get enough sleep have a higher risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and other diseases. Adults generally need at least seven hours of sleep at night. Set a sleep schedule and correctly follow it by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day.
- Get Regular Health Screenings – High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage the heart and blood vessels. Getting medical screenings can help detect problems early and determine what action needs to be taken.
Commitment to a healthy lifestyle by diligently following the above-listed strategies can go a long way in preventing heart disease.