Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It is responsible for 1 in 4 deaths, with more than 650,000 people dying from heart disease every year. While these statistics are frightening, there are things you can do to help prevent heart disease.
Risk Factors for Heart Disease
There are a number of factors that increase your risk for heart disease, many of which can be avoided through healthy lifestyle choices. Heart disease risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Being overweight
- Unhealthy eating
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Unmanaged stress
Preventing Heart Disease
You can reduce your risk of heart disease and other chronic conditions by making healthy lifestyle choices.
- Don’t smoke or use tobacco. Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, too. Whether you are a former smoker or a current one, quitting still provides immediate risk reduction. Therefore, it is never too late to quit smoking.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can lead to diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which all increase your risk of heart disease. You can check that you are in a healthy weight range by determining your body mass index (BMI) and measuring your waist. A BMI of 25 or above can indicate that you are overweight, while a waist circumference of more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men can put you at a higher risk for heart disease. If you are unsure if you are at a healthy weight or if you need help losing weight, speak with your doctor.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. Focus on whole-foods like fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole-grains, lean meat, fish and unsaturated fats. If you need help getting started, try the Mediterranean diet or the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) protocol.
- Make exercise a priority. It is important to get physical activity every day to help prevent some of the risk factors for heart disease, including diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Exercise also helps maintain your weight. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day.
- Drink alcohol in moderation. This means no more than 8 alcoholic drinks per week for women and 15 or less for men. Excessive drinking increases the risk for heart disease and stroke, along with other diseases like liver disease and cancer.
- Get regular checkups. Screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes can help detect problems before they cause damage to your cardiovascular system. Testing frequency will depend on your risk factors and age.
- Manage stress levels. Chronic stress can increase your blood pressure and raise your risk for heart disease. Unmanaged stress can also lead to unhealthy habits for coping with stress, putting you at even more risk. Explore healthy ways to reduce stress like mindfulness, meditation, breathing exercises, enjoying a hobby and spending time in nature.
The team at Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists consists of North Louisiana’s leading experts in cardiovascular care. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call our office at (318) 798-9400.