5 Ways to Keep Heart Healthy
While there are several risk factors we cannot control, adopting a healthy lifestyle can go a long way toward preventing heart problems. Here are 5 things you can do to get started!
1. Don’t Smoke or Use Tobacco
Smoking or using tobacco is one of the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease. Chemicals in tobacco damage your heart and blood vessels and can lead to narrowing of the arteries (artherosclerosis). Artherosclerosis can ultimately lead to a heart attack. When it comes to heart disease, no amount of smoking, whether it’s first hand or second hand, is safe.
The good news is that when you quit smoking, risk of heart disease drops in just one year.
2. Exercise for 30 minutes Most Days of the Week
Regular exercise can reduce your risk of fatal heart disease. Physical activity helps maintain a healthy body weight and reduces your chances of developing other conditions that can put a strain on your heart such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. It can also reduce stress.
Activities such as gardening, walking the dog and taking the stairs can all count toward your total minutes for the day. The more minutes and the more rigorous the activity, the better it is for your heart.
3. Eat a Heart-healthy Diet
There are things to cut back on, and things to add to your plate. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products can help protect your heart. Beans and other low-fat sources of protein, and certain types of fish can also reduce your risk of heart disease. Avoid foods high in fat, cholesterol and salt. Try to limit saturated fats (red meat, dairy products) and trans fats (deep-fried fast foods, bakery products, packaged snack foods, margarine, crackers).
Omega-3 fatty acids may decrease your risk of heart attack, protect against irregular heartbeats and lower blood pressure. Some fish such as salmon and mackerel are a good natural source of omega-3’s, and they’re also present in smaller amounts in flaxseed oil, walnut oil, soybean oil and canola oil.
Limiting alcohol intake to moderate levels will also help maintain a healthy heart.
4. Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
As we age we tend to gain weight mostly from body fat rather than muscle. This excess weight can lead to conditions that put our hearts at risk…high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes. Calculating your Body Mass Index or measuring your waist can be a helpful guide in weight management. A BMI over 25 is often considered to be risky for heart health. Waist measurements greater than 40 inches for men or 35 inches for women are also considered high.
5. Get Regular Health Screenings
High blood pressure and cholesterol levels can damage your heart and blood vessels. Regular screenings will give you the knowledge required to manage these levels and prevent heart disease.