3 Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Heart Disease
Heart disease is one of the leading causes of death in the United States. In many instances, this is preventable. It is crucial that you take care of your heart, and we have a handful of simple ways you can improve your heart health. There are certain risk factors you cannot change, but there is plenty you can do to decrease your risk.
Heart Disease Risk Factors You Cannot Change
There are four risk factors for heart disease that you cannot change: family history, age, gender, and race or ethnicity.
- Family History: If you have a close family member that had heart disease at an early age, your odds of developing it are higher.
- Age: As you get older, your risk for this disease goes up. Men that are 45 years of age or older and women 55 years of age or older have a greater risk.
- Gender: Generally, men have a greater risk of heart disease than women because estrogen provides some protection. On the other hand, women with diabetes have an even greater risk than men.
- Race or Ethnicity: It is evident that certain groups of people have a greater risk than others. African Americans are more likely to develop it than Caucasians, and Hispanic Americans are less likely to develop it. Some Asian groups, like East Asians, have a lower risk, but South Asians have a higher risk.
No matter your family history, age, gender, or race, there are still ways you can lower your risk of developing heart disease. You are not doomed just because of who you are.
Physical activity is crucial to a healthy heart. By exercising, you not only strengthen your heart and improve circulation, but you also improve your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Each person should accomplish approximately 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week. The Department of Human Health and Services recommends each person accomplish 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity and 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity. It is also a good idea to add a couple of days of strength training to your week as well.
If you cannot do all of this at first, do not fret. Any exercise is good for your heart, so try to work your way up to these recommendations.
Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet
Food is also a great way to maintain your heart health and prevent heart disease. You will need to focus your diet on fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Limit your consumption of foods high in saturated fat, like red meat and full-fat dairy products. You should also avoid foods high in trans fat, like deep-fried fast food, packaged snack food, and margarine. Healthy fats in foods like avocados, nuts, and olives are perfectly healthy and encouraged though.
You should also avoid consuming alcohol and smoking. Each of these raises your blood pressure and cholesterol, and alcohol contains extra calories that can cause weight gain. If you are going to drink alcohol, women should only have one drink a day, and men should only have two at the most. By one drink, we mean 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.
Get Enough Sleep
Not getting enough quality sleep will do much more than cause you to repeatedly yawn throughout the day. It can actually raise your risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, and depression. Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep every night, so plan your sleep accordingly. It helps if you go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day. If you feel like you get plenty of sleep but do not feel well-rested, talk to your doctor about sleep apnea. If you have it, there are ways to treat it so you sleep better at night.
There is more you can do to prevent heart disease, including finding healthy ways to manage your stress and having regular screenings. Adults under 40 years of age should have a blood pressure screening every two years, and adults over 40 should have one once a year. You should have your cholesterol tested every five years and a test for diabetes every three years. If you do these things, as well as maintain a healthy lifestyle, your risk of heart disease will go down significantly.