Your lifestyle can make a big difference in your heart health
Did you know that heart disease is the #1 leading cause of death in the U.S.? It can be a frightening statistic, but fortunately there are some things you can do to decrease your chance of heart disease.
Take a moment and reflect on your lifestyle. Are you making choices that benefit your heart? If not, why not set a goal to make some changes? The following heart healthy tips are compiled from resources from the Centers for Disease Control and the American Heart Association. See how many you are already following, and challenge yourself to improve.
Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
Tip 1: Get regular checkups with your doctor
Getting an annual physical with your primary care physician is a good way to check for heart disease as well as other health conditions. Your doctor will order blood tests to check your cholesterol levels. At your appointment, you will get your weight and blood pressure checked as well. If your doctor feels you may be at risk for heart disease, he or she may order additional tests such as an EKG, stress test, chest x-ray, or holter monitoring.
Tip 2: Memorize the warning signs of a heart attack
Even if you think you are not at high risk, you should know the warning signs of a heart attack. If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, the fastest way to get help is to call 9-1-1.
Tip 3: Make physical fitness a priority in your life
Your heart is a muscle that needs exercise. Make fitness an important part of your lifestyle. There are many ways to add fitness to your life, and it can even be fun.
- Join a nearby gym and sign up for a class or two
- Work with a personal trainer to customize a good workout for you
- Train for a 5K run
- Walk or hike with a friend
- Take a long bike ride over the weekend
- Join an adult sports league
Aim to exercise for three to five hours each week, at a moderate level of intensity. Also, try to avoid long sedentary periods. Break up your working, studying, or screen time with ten-minute walks. There are so many ways to have fun exercising! Safety tip: If you are out of shape, talk to your doctor first about starting a fitness plan.
Tip 4: Don’t let stress get the better of you
Stress isn’t something that you can see. You can’t measure how much stress you have in your life. However, doctors know that too much stress can be bad for your health. Take a look inward and evaluate how much stress you have. How can you reduce it? Some stress reducers for you might be:
- Go for a walk or a run
- Talk with a friend
- Go shopping
- Do a relaxing activity like coloring, knitting, or gardening
- Take deep breaths
- Practice mindfulness or meditation
- Schedule fewer obligations
Everyone is bound to have some stress, but try your best to keep an eye on how much stress you are experiencing. You owe it to yourself!
Tip 5: Avoid smoking
It’s no secret. Smoking is bad for your overall health, including both your heart and lung health. Avoid smoking, and try your best to avoid second-hand smoke too. If you are a smoker, make a plan to quit. Talk to your doctor about advice on quitting smoking, or try the American Lung Association’s stop smoking resources.
Tip 6: Go easy on the alcohol
While drinking some alcohol is okay, you shouldn’t overdo it. Drinking too much can cause an increase in blood pressure and an increase in your risk of heart disease. Men should limit themselves to no more than two drinks per day, and women should drink no more than one drink per day. If you are a heavy drinker, talk with your doctor about the safest way to cut back. It is important to have a doctor’s advice so that you can avoid withdrawal symptoms, some of which can be dangerous.
Tip 7: Choose a balanced and healthy diet
There’s no getting around eating your vegetables. A heart-healthy diet should be high in vegetables, fruits, and fiber. Healthy fats are also important. Try to avoid too many processed foods, which tend to be high in sugar, salt, and saturated fats. A great place to get heart-healthy eating advice is the American Heart Association’s Healthy Eating website.
Tip 8: Maintain a healthy body mass index (BMI)
Carrying around extra weight can be tough on your heart. The standard measurement for a healthy weight is the Body Mass Index. There are plenty of online calculators where you can find out your BMI. All you need to do is enter your height and weight. If your BMI is too high, talk to your doctor about starting a safe plan for losing weight.
Tip 9. Take your medicines as directed
If your doctor prescribes you heart medication, be sure to take it as directed. Your doctor may prescribe blood pressure medicines, cholesterol-lowering prescriptions, or other heart medicines. These are important for your heart health, and should be taken exactly how the doctor ordered.
With these tips, we hope you are able to take new steps toward better heart health. It will be worth it!
This article was produced by the Harris Casel Institute. Our school offers career training in healthcare careers. Contact us online if you want to learn more about our programs in healthcare and allied health.