8 Easy Steps to a Healthy Heart
Every year, heart disease kills more than 375,000 men and women in the United States, making it the number one cause of death in the country. Heart disease has several factors, but they all contribute to difficulty of blood flowing from the heart. It is most often caused by an unhealthy lifestyle such as a poor diet, little exercise, being overweight and smoking.
How Can I Prevent Heart Disease?
- Exercise. Being active reduces the risk of heart disease. Any activity that increases heart rate is important. It is recommended that you should get 150 minutes a week of a moderate level of exercise. Start small and increase your exercise time. Just get moving!
- Maintain your ideal weight. Overweight people are at greater risk for heart disease. You should eat a healthy diet that is low in fats and sugar, and containing mostly vegetables and fruit. Find your ideal weight with a BMI calculator.
- Quit smoking. Smoking increases blood pressure, damages the heart and blood vessels which leads to heart disease. Cone Health has smoking cessation classes and support groups to help you quit.
- Drink less alcohol. Alcohol abuse weakens the heart muscle which makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood the way it should.
- Reduce salt intake. Too much salt impacts the ability of your kidneys to remove water from the bloodstream. The result of this is higher blood pressure because of the extra fluid. Avoid using added salt at the dinner table and limit the amount of salt used when cooking. Consider using salt-free seasonings such as garlic, thyme, onion powder, and Mrs. Dash.
- Reduce saturated fat in your diet. Saturated fats raise your ‘bad’ cholesterol and is found in animal products. Try eating leaner cuts of meat, use less oils when cooking by baking, broiling, and grilling, and remove skins from poultry.
- Pay attention to what foods you buy. Read the labels of food when shopping at the grocery store. You may be surprised by how much salt, sugar and fat are found in seemingly harmless foods. Also, try to buy most of your food from the outside aisle of the supermarket. The interior aisles are where most of the processed foods reside.
- Reduce stress. It isn’t clear if stress is a factor in heart disease or causes other factors to be more influential. Either way, taking time to de-stress and relax (both mentally and physically) certainly will benefit the body.
Talk With Your Doctor
Though prevention techniques may reduce your risks, it is important to speak with your primary care provider about heart disease, especially if you have a family history of it. Annual physicals that include cholesterol and blood pressure checks are essential to maintaining a healthy heart.
If you develop symptoms of heart disease, your primary care provider may refer you to a cardiologist to help guide your treatment.
About the Author
Jake Hochrein, MD is a chief cardiologist at CHMG HeartCare and Chief of the Cone Health Cardiovascular Service Line