“Heart disease, which includes coronary artery disease, stroke and heart attack, remains the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women,” said Kyle Ulveling, M.D., Iowa Heart Center and St. Anthony Regional Hospital.
“Some of the key risk factors for heart disease include high blood pressure, high LDL, or bad cholesterol, and smoking. These are all things that individuals can positively impact by their actions. The bottom line: living a healthy lifestyle can help reduce risk for heart disease,” said Ulveling.
Follow these strategies to make positive changes to your lifestyle and improve your heart health – you and your loved ones will be happy you did.
- Get a physical. Studies show many people do not practice preventive health care. For a variety of reasons, many skip annual physicals year after year. Make the call this month. Physicians will check weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and other indicators. Getting a physical is the single best step you can take to care for your heart health.
- Eat healthy. Enjoy a well-balanced diet of lean meats, fruits and vegetables, fiber-filled whole grains, nuts, legumes, seeds and fish.
- Increase fruits and veggies. Studies show fruits and veggies with lots of potassium can help lower blood pressure – so include bananas, tomatoes, potatoes, squash and sweet potatoes in your weekly routine.
- Reduce bad fats. Saturated fats and trans fats increase risk of heart disease; specifically, trans fats raise LDL. So, work to cut back on saturated fats, which can be found in fatty meats and dairy, and trans fats, found in chips, crackers, fried food, etc. Read labels and restaurants’ nutrition information online.
- Increase good fats. Eat more food with unsaturated fats, which are good for cardiovascular health. Incorporate olive oil, avocados and almonds into your daily routine. Omega-3 fatty acids, which are a type of unsaturated fat, are especially beneficial for the heart and blood vessels and can be found in salmon, tuna, oysters, flaxseed and walnuts.
- Do not smoke. Smoking is linked to numerous health conditions and diseases, and negatively impacts heart health. Smoking causes blood vessel linings to swell and narrow; and may cause various types of cardiovascular disease. If you smoke, quit today to reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Ask your doctor for resources and support if you want to quit.
- Exercise. Regular physical activity can make a big difference to your cardiovascular health, boost your energy and attitude, lower your blood pressure and cholesterol, and may even help you deal with stress. Start small and increase exercise to these levels for ideal health results. Add one half to one hour of cardio exercise into your schedule two to three days a week plus strength training two to three days. Your heart will thank you.
- Limit alcohol. There is some evidence that drinking small amounts of alcohol may have limited health benefits. However, most research agrees excessive amounts of alcohol are not good for overall health or heart health. Drinking too much can cause high blood pressure, placing a strain on your heart. Ideally, men should limit alcohol intake to two drinks per day and women one drink per day.
- Manage stress. Left untreated, stress can wreak havoc on your body. Stress may impact behaviors that increase heart disease, e.g,. high blood pressure and cholesterol, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, etc. Strive to develop healthy habits and stress coping strategies that work for you. Get enough sleep, try relaxation techniques like meditation, limit caffeine, and exercise.
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