Your heart never stops working for you. It’s always there, working as hard as it can, beating tirelessly and keeping your blood pumping, circulating oxygen and nutrients throughout your body. But sometimes the unthinkable happens, and heart disease prevents your most important muscle from doing its job. As unpleasant as it is to think about, heart disease is one of the top causes of death for men and women, and pretending it doesn’t exist isn’t going to reduce the risk of it affecting you or the people you love. The best way to deal with the risk of heart disease is to face it head on proactively and take whatever steps you need to lower your risk factors, maintain awareness of your heart health and stop incipient heart disease in its tracks. Whether you’re sure you’re fit and healthy or are already at risk of developing cardiovascular problems, it’s never too late to start making the health of your heart a priority. Choose now to develop habits that will keep your heart beating strong for a long time to come.
- Eat Heart-Healthy Foods
We have to eat every day, so being careful about the food you’re putting into your body is one of the first and most important things you should do to manage your heart health and overall fitness. Being overweight is linked to the plaque buildup in arteries that can cause heart disease and other risk factors, such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol. Avoiding (or at least lessening your consumption of) red meat, alcohol, high-sodium foods, saturated fats and trans fats can go a long way toward improving your heart health in the long term, and eating a balanced diet consisting of whole grains, vegetables, fruits, legumes, low-fat dairy products and fish containing omega-3 fatty acids can help you maintain a healthy body weight.
- Get More Exercise
Study after study has shown that being physically active and getting daily exercise can reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your health in a number of other ways. It can lower your “bad” cholesterol and blood pressure and support your efforts to lose weight. Even just twenty minutes of brisk walking per day can be a good start, and your doctor can help you make an exercise plan that’s safe and beneficial for your lifestyle and capabilities. If you know you’re overweight or obese, there’s no better time than right now to start working on safely losing weight. Even a difference of a few pounds can produce measurable health benefits.
- Try Not to Stress Out
Heart attacks can be triggered by stressful, upsetting or painful events. Such experiences can’t always be avoided, but managing your overall stress levels on a day-to-day basis can help keep your heart in good shape to handle all of life’s ups and downs. If you feel like you’re stressed out all the time, try to look into cultivating habits that will take the edge off and help you relax, whether it’s spending more time with your hobbies, talking to family and friends, meditating, seeking therapy or engaging in healthful physical activities.
- Quit Smoking
Smoking is linked to many heart disease risk factors. If you’re a smoker, the best thing you can do for your heart health (not to mention your lungs) is quit–right away. If you don’t think you can kick the habit cold turkey, look into local support groups or smoking cessation programs to help you out.
- Get Necessary Medical Help
Regular checkups and physical exams are vital to staying on top of changes to your health, and if you find out that cardiovascular disease has already started to set in, you should talk to your doctor about treatment options to help you manage it. This might include daily statins to lower your cholesterol or medications that keep your blood pressure down. In more severe cases of coronary heart disease, such as narrowed or blocked arteries, your doctor may recommend interventional cardiology procedures like angioplasty. If heart disease is caught early, the right medical care can save and prolong your life, so don’t procrastinate when it comes to seeing your doctor and getting yourself checked out.
Many factors can affect your risk of developing heart disease, including genetics. There’s no way to completely safeguard against heart problems, but there are many things you can do for yourself and your family to practice heart-healthy habits and minimize that risk. Your heart does so much to keep you alive and active, so show it some love and take care of it as best you can!