Heart disease does not discriminate and affects both men and women of most ethnic groups almost equally. In fact, did you know heart disease is the #1 killer in America, ahead of cancer and accidents? A staggering rate of roughly 25% of deaths (almost 600,000) in the U.S. each year is due to heart disease. Is that enough to make you reconsider your habits and commit to a better lifestyle?
Maintaining a healthy heart is always essential, but what better time than now to start practicing heart-healthy habits. Although some causes of heart disease are genetic, your lifestyle still plays a role in affecting the condition of your heart. Some things you can do to keep your body’s most important muscle in good condition are:
· Eat healthy – We all know eating right is crucial to maintaining a healthy weight (which is important for having a healthy heart), but it is also essential for heart health in itself. Some foods that are ‘good for the heart’ are beans and legumes, fish, fruits and vegetables, nuts and whole grains. Stay away from foods high in fat, sodium and sugar. And no matter what you’re eating, remember to use good portion control.
· Manage stress levels – Being stressed causes breathing and heart rate to speed up, which in turn causes blood pressure to rise; over time, this can damage the artery walls. Take time to incorporate stress busters into your life. Examples include getting enough sleep, pacing yourself, exercising, talking to friends and family, setting goals and making a plan to get there, figuring out what your pleasures are and indulging in them and thinking positively.
· Quit smoking – Besides damaging your lungs, smoking is bad for your heart as it increases the risk of stroke, heart attack, atherosclerosis (buildup of fatty substances in the arteries), peripheral artery disease and aortic aneurysms.
· Exercise – You can lower your risk of heart disease by exercising for as little as 30 minutes a day. Aerobic activities such as jogging, walking and swimming are very beneficial for your heart. If you’ve been sedentary for a long time, start slow – some exercise is better than none and you have to start somewhere!
· Increasing day-to-day physical activity – Everyday chores and other tasks can be modified to benefit your health – park farther away when out shopping, use a push mower instead of a riding one, use stairs instead of elevators.
Why not start now and make a commitment to adopt healthy habits and keep your heart in good shape? You’ll love yourself for it later.
Author: Caroline Ballard, PMG Research
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, American Heart Association