5 Immediate Steps to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and around the world. It's a billion dollar problem that affects as many as one in three Americans. It's been estimated that one person the United States dies from heart disease every 90 seconds - over 2,000 people per day. But as serious as these statistics are, there's hope. Most of the factors that lead to heart disease are lifestyle-related.
This is a good thing. It means that there are things you can do to reduce your risk of developing heart disease. Here are the top five things you can do that will reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your health overall:
#1 Don't worry about eating "right," just eat clean. The "right" foods to eat for your heart usually change with fad diets. But you can't go wrong with simple natural foods. Aim to make the majority of your shopping cart filled with lean meats and animal proteins, vegetables, nuts and seeds, and some fruit. Avoid processed foods and refined carbohydrates - pretty much anything with a long shelf-life or that comes in a box. Processed foods tend to promote inflammation, spike blood sugar levels, and promote weight gain - all factors which can raise your risk of developing heart disease.
#2 Move your body a little bit every day. Your body is meant to be active. Use it! The best way to ensure that you maintain an exercise routine is to find something you like. You might walk, hike, swim, do yoga, lift weights, cycle, or find some other outlet. Whatever it is, do a little bit every day. Even just parking a little further away and taking the stairs instead of the elevator can help. It all adds up. Physical exercise has been shown to reduce your risk of heart disease, strengthen your cardiovascular system, and help you lose weight. It can also help you manage your stress, which leads us to the next point.
#3 Manage your stress. People tend to underestimate the importance of staying calm and well-rested, especially when it comes to heart health. When your body and mind is stressed out, hormones and chemicals are released in your body that can strain your heart and raise your blood pressure. Stay calm by taking deep breaths, getting enough quality sleep, and drinking plenty of water. Make time to do the hobbies and activities you love. You may even want to practice visualization or meditation techniques. Do what works for you.
# 4 Talk to your doctor and your family. Your doctor can give you tests and information that can tell you more about your risk for heart disease. Things like blood sugar and cholesterol levels are factors that may impact your heart health. Your family history can also give you helpful insight into your relative risk for heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. With the support of your family, it becomes easier to make healthy life changes, too. So, if not your family or doctor, find someone that you can talk to and get support from.
#5 Get rid of the bull. If you smoke, quit. If you drink, do so in moderation. Smoking and drinking can damage your blood vessels and promote inflammation in the body. If you eat junk food or drink soda, cut back or cut it out completely. If you're overweight or obese, lose the excess body fat. Obesity increases the strain on your heart and raises your risk for diabetes, which has been linked with heart disease. Small changes may not be easy, but they're often the most helpful.
Look around your life and decide where the bull is for you. Give yourself a small action step toward making a change, then take it.
Eat clean, exercise, sleep. It's simple, right? These may seem like obvious suggestions, but it's surprising how many Americans struggle with following even just some of these tips. The problem is, if it's easy to do, then it's easy not to do, too. You have to make the decision to care about your heart health. You have to decide that things like clean food, physical activity, and stress management are important to you. Communicating with your doctor and family members about your health is crucial, but ultimately the responsibility - and the power - lies with you.
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