Heart disease is the second leading cause of death among people age 45-64, and the leading cause of death for people over the age of 65. Heart attacks strike 735,000 Americans every year– that equals one heart attack every 43 seconds in our country. While some risk factors, such as age, sex, and genetics, cannot be helped, by choosing to lead a healthy lifestyle, you significantly reduce your vulnerability to heart disease. A few ways to do that include:
- Get regular exercise. Two of the highest risk factors for heart disease are high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Getting 30 minutes of exercise a day helps mitigate both of those risk factors. You don’t have to put yourself through a strenuous workout to achieve the health benefits of exercise. You’ll be more likely to stick with exercise habits if it involves something you enjoy; taking your dog for a walk, taking a scenic hike, or working in your garden contribute to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
- Maintain a healthy diet. Having a diet rich in whole grains and raw fruits and vegetables strengthens your heart. Eating low-cholesterol proteins such as beans and fish help prevent issues that lead to heart disease. Most importantly, stay away from foods that contain trans fats, such as red meat, processed or fried food. Eat foods as close to the original source as possible.
- If You Smoke, Don’t. Tobacco use is one of the leading causes of heart disease. Chemicals in cigarettes narrow your arteries, lead to blood clots, reduce the oxygen in your blood, and cause heart attacks. The good news is, the risk to your heart caused by smoking can often be reversed within 5 years of being cigarette-free. If you smoke, try to quit today.
- Give yourself the fift of quality healthcare. Taking the time to visit a doctor for routine health checks might seem like a waste of resources if you feel healthy but catching heart disease while it is treatable is critical. One of the most important parts of a quality healthcare plan is preventative cardiac care. A few routine heart screenings to make sure you do not skip include:
- Blood Pressure Checks. High blood pressure weakens your heart and damages your blood vessels. A healthy adult should have their blood pressure checked annually to make sure it is lower than 120/80. If you have a family history of heart disease, have blood pressure outside of the optimal range, or are obese, you should have it checked more often.
- Cholesterol Check. High cholesterol causes blockage in your arteries that narrows your blood vessels and increases your vulnerability of heart issues. If you don’t have a family history of heart disease, are in a healthy weight range, and previous cholesterol checks have been normal, it is only necessary to have your cholesterol screened every 5 years.
- Diabetes Check. Diabetes contributes to serious heart issues, so catching diabetes as soon as possible is important getting quality healthcare to maintain a healthy heart. You should be screened for diabetes every three years after the age of 45 unless you have a genetic risk or are overweight, in which you should be screened at the recommendation of your doctor.
Your primary care doctor most likely offers common cardiology diagnostics and can refer you to a cardiovascular department if your test results are irregular.
Have you made any lifestyle changes that contribute to a heart healthy? Please leave us a comment with suggestions to other people in your position.