Five Healthy Lifestyle Tips to Take to Heart
February is American Heart Month, a time to shine a light on heart disease, the leading cause of death for men and women in the U.S.
One person dies every 34 seconds from cardiovascular disease, and according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the condition has become more prevalent in younger adults.
Increased rates of obesity and high blood pressure have put more people ages 35-64 at risk for coronary artery disease and the serious health problems it can cause.
It’s estimated that nearly half (47%) of all Americans have at least one of the top three heart disease risk factors – high cholesterol, high blood pressure and smoking.
Other risk factors tied to coronary artery disease include:
Having diabetes – More than 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes, which can damage the blood vessels and nerves that control the heart muscle.
Being overweight/obese – More than 1 in 3 Americans have obesity, which puts added stress on the heart. Obesity can also lead to high blood pressure and diabetes.
Having an unhealthy diet – Most Americans consume too much sodium, which can increase blood pressure. Diets high in trans and saturated fat, and added sugar also increase the risk of heart disease.
Being physically inactive – Only 25% of adults meet the recommended physical activity guideline of 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week.
Excessive alcohol use – Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and increase triglyceride levels in the blood, both of which can increases heart disease risk.
A family history of early heart disease (younger than 50) – While genetics can play a role in blood pressure and heart disease, the risk is increased when combined with an unhealthy diet and lifestyle.
Coronary risk factors have a cumulative effect, meaning the more risk factors a person has, the greater their risk becomes. Known as the multiplier effect, having one risk factor doubles the risk of developing heart disease, two risk factors quadruples the risk, and having three or more increases the risk more than 10-fold.
Knowing the risk factors and the ways you can prevent cardiovascular disease is key to keeping your heart healthy at all ages and stages of life. The CDC recommends these healthy lifestyle tips to reduce your risk for heart disease.
Getting regular physical activity can help lower blood pressure, blood sugar levels and your cholesterol, while helping you maintain a healthy weight. For adults, the recommendation is 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each week; children and teens should have an hour of physical activity daily.
Enjoy a Heart Healthy Diet
Choose healthy meals and snacks that are high in fiber and low in trans and saturated fats, added sugar and sodium. Pile your plate with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid processed foods. Limit your intake of alcoholic beverages, which like sodium, can raise blood pressure. It’s recommended that men have no more than two drinks per day; women should have no more than one per day.
Maintain a healthy weight
Staying within a healthy weight range reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease by putting less stress on your heart and blood vessels. Calculate your body mass index (BMI) to determine if your weight is in a healthy range.
Take Charge of Existing Health Conditions
If you have high blood pressure, high cholesterol or other medical conditions that put you at risk for heart disease, work with your healthcare provider to manage them with prescribed medications and lifestyle modifications.
Don’t Smoke/Use Tobacco
Smoking cigarettes can damage both the heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attack. Don’t start smoking and if you do smoke, talk with your doctor about cessation programs to help you quit, which can lower your risk for heart disease.