Our beating hearts are the most fundamental source of life, but are we looking after them properly? Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US and accounts for 1 in every 4 deaths, according to the CDC. One of the biggest contributors to these statistics is a lack of commitment to a heart-healthy lifestyle. Making healthy choices and knowing the risk factors are your best defense against heart disease and stroke. In honor of World Heart Day on September 29, we’re sharing the top strategies for living a heart-healthy lifestyle and tips on how physicians and patients can help prevent various cardiovascular diseases.
Carrying extra weight strains the heart and places you at risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes – the very risk factors that heighten your chance of developing heart disease. Maintaining a healthy body mass index is an important lifestyle change that can help set a course for better heart health and lower your heart disease risk. For optimal heart protection, aim to maintain healthy weight through good nutrition and physical activity, and don’t forget to check your blood pressure regularly. There’s no fad diet or secret to success when it comes to weight, but keep reading and you’ll find a few simple tips to help get you started!
A healthy diet is one of the most effective and simple ways to fight cardiovascular disease. The food you eat and how much you consume can affect several other risk factors of heart disease. In our poll of 261 physicians, 74% strongly agree that the typical western diet is partially responsible for the high prevalence of heart disease in the US. One of our Family Medicine physicians said, “Processed foods, sugars, genetics and inflammatory foods are the culprits of heart disease.” Choose a diet that emphasizes nutrient-rich foods full of vitamin K and omega 3s that serve as a great source of heart-healthy fats and are beneficial to your overall health.
Routine exercise and physical activity benefit every aspect of our lives, especially when it comes to heart health. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of heart-pumping physical activity perk week. If this seems daunting, look for opportunities to do extra movements throughout your day and focus on incorporating different types of activity that you enjoy into your routine.
Substances to Avoid
The substances we consume affect our hearth health just as much as the food we put into our bodies. Unhealthy behaviors, such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption, can increase your risk for high blood pressure, and consequently lead to heart disease and stroke. Limiting your alcohol intake and cutting out smoking can significantly reduce your chance of developing heart-related illness.
Let’s celebrate our heart health!
Heart health is not about short-term fixes, but rather making long-term lifestyle changes that may lower your risk if you approach it the right way. As physicians, adherence to these healthy strategies is critical for patients at risk. In fact, one of the cardiologists in our community wrote, “Convincing the patient to be compliant is part of our job; we should work to get better at it, rather than blaming the patient.” You don’t need to aim for a complete transformation all at once. Small changes in weight, diet, exercise, and unhealthy habits can make a big difference in your heart health.