5 Things You Can Do Today to Prevent Heart Disease
While you may often hear scary stories about heart disease affecting those around you, it doesn’t mean you have to let the fear of it control your life. You can Lower your risk for heart disease with these simple steps that you can make a part of your everyday routine.
“Many people might think they have no control over their heart disease risk if they have a certain condition or are getting older. This is not true. You can never be too young or too old to start taking better care of your heart. The first step to helping prevent heart disease is to make smart choices every day,” says Howard Gitter, M.D., a cardiologist at Crozer-Keystone Health System.
Here are five simple steps you can take today to prevent heart disease.
Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet
A balanced and nutritious diet is good for your overall health and is especially important for maintaining a healthy heart. “Including lots of whole grains, vegetables and fruits in your diet is a good start for a heart-healthy diet. Aim for other foods that are low in saturated and trans fats, as well as sodium. If you’re craving meat, skip the red meat and go for fish or skinless poultry,” Gitter says.
Exercising regularly is good for your heart because it helps control your weight. Maintaining a healthy weight can help you avoid conditions that contribute to heart disease, such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
The federal Department of Health and Human Services recommends you get the following every week:
- 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, or
- 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, or
- A combination of the two each week.
If you aren't able to reach these recommendations now, shorter exercise routines will help you work toward your goal and still benefit your heart.
“Remember to talk to your doctor if you’re starting a new exercise routine or want to try a new workout. Your doctor can clear you for whatever you’re planning and help make sure it’s safe and right for you,” Gitter says.
Catch Some ZZZs
No matter how full your schedule is, you need to make time for sleep. Lack of sleep can increase your risk for weight problems, depression, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart attack.
Most adults need an average of seven to nine hours of sleep each night.
If you’re having problems with sleeping or staying asleep, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can recommend testing for conditions such as sleep apnea and suggest lifestyle changes that can help.
Avoid Smoking and Limit Alcohol
Smoking and drinking alcohol raise your risk for heart disease.
“Smoking can damage your arteries over time, putting you at a greater risk of developing a condition known as angina that leads to heart attacks and strokes. You can greatly reduce your risk of getting these health complications by quitting smoking or not starting if you do not smoke already,” Gitter says.
Drinking too many alcoholic beverages too much or drinking them too can raise your blood pressure. To keep their risks low, men should limit themselves to two drinks a day and women to one drink a day.
See Your Doctor
Even if you’re healthy, you should still see your doctor regularly. Going in for a checkup is a great way to monitor your health and catch problems early.
“Checking in with your doctor on a regular basis is a good way for both of you to keep an eye out for any changes in your health that might happen over time. As you age, your risk for heart disease increases regardless of your lifestyle. It’s important to keep up with heart-health screenings,” Gitter says.