Cardiovascular disease is the #1 killer of Americans. Naturally, many people want to know what they can do to reduce their risk of heart attack, heart failure, stroke, and peripheral disease. Well, there are some simple lifestyle habits you can adopt today that can significantly reduce your risk.
Five heart-healthy habits that can literally save your life
1. See your doctor regularly. Most of the indicators of elevated risk of heart disease can be detected in a simple checkup that takes less than an hour. A few minutes spent checking the status of your heart rhythms, your blood pressure, and your cholesterol levels can provide “early warning signals” of heart disease before it has had an opportunity to become serious.
2. Eat a more heart-healthy diet. Focus on eating a more balanced diet, low in saturated fats and trans fats, and high in fruits, vegetables, and sources of unsaturated fats like lean meats, poultry, and fish. Add more grains, soluble fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids to your diet, and avoid fast foods, processed foods, and sugary foods and drinks. At the same time, reduce the amount of sodium (salt) you consume, 75% of which we tend not to notice because it comes “hidden” in processed foods and meals we eat in restaurants.
3. Get more exercise. And “exercise” doesn’t have to mean going to the gym and “pumping iron” every day, or running marathons. Just walking more can greatly reduce your heart risk. Work up to a goal of exercising 30 minutes every day, even if that is just a brisk walk. Swimming, playing sports, and even climbing the stairs rather than taking the elevator can also help.
4. Maintain a healthy weight. Statistics tell us that most Americans need to lose weight. Every extra pound you carry around puts more pressure on your heart and your circulatory system, and increases your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Eating a healthier diet and exercising more can help, but if you are more than a little overweight, or obese, working with your Boynton Beach vascular doctors to develop a sensible weight loss plan can literally add years to your life.
5. Pay attention to what your parents told you about “vices.” Remember when they told you that smoking and drinking too much alcohol were bad for you? They were right. Stopping smoking will lower your blood pressure within 20 minutes and cut your heart attack risk in half within a year. A glass of wine at dinner can actually be beneficial to your heart health, but drinking more than that – especially on a long-term basis – significantly increases your cholesterol levels and thus your risk of heart disease.
What other lifestyle habits can make my heart healthier?
We’ve listed the “Top Five” heart-healthy habits above, because they are the ones that will have the most positive impact on your heart health, and in the shortest period of time. But naturally there are other habits you can develop that will help to keep your heart healthy. For example, finding ways to reduce stress like yoga, meditation, or tai chi can benefit your heart by lowering the strain placed upon it by stress in your environment. Getting enough sleep is as important to your heart health as it is to maintaining your overall health.
But the “Top Five” suggestions are still the most important, as is finding a trusted source of medical information about heart health and how to improve it. At South Palm Cardiovascular Associates, we pride ourselves on our devotion to patient education. We work with our patients to find ways to “help them help themselves” to keep their hearts and their circulatory systems healthy. So call your Palm Beach area cardiologist heart doctors today at 561-515-0080 and “tick off” the first habit on our list today. We’ll help you with the rest of the list.