A new year is here, which means many of us have started on a host of New Year’s resolutions. For a lot of people, these resolutions involve getting in shape or losing weight, especially after what is often an overindulgent holiday season. While looking and feeling good are valid reasons to eat better and work out, the benefits for your health and heart may be even bigger motivators to begin more healthy habits.
We all know that heart disease is a leading cause of death. One in every four deaths in the United States is from heart disease, with a person dying every 37 seconds from cardiovascular disease according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What many people don’t realize is that a heart-healthy lifestyle can drastically reduce your risk, even for those with a family history of cardiovascular disease.
Some of the biggest controllable risk factors for heart disease include:
- Being overweight
- High cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Lack of exercise/physical activity
- Unhealthy diet
There are many steps you can start taking right now to lower your risk of heart disease, such as improving your diet, maintaining a healthy weight, staying active, managing stress, getting enough sleep, controlling existing medical conditions like high blood pressure or cholesterol, and eliminating harmful habits like smoking and excessive alcohol consumption.
Here are Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists’ top tips for keeping your heart healthy all year long:
Eat a healthy diet.
Eating a heart-healthy diet means limiting foods that are high in trans fats and saturated fats, sugar and salt; and focusing on vegetables, fruits, whole-grains, lean protein and healthy fats. If you’re looking for diet guidelines to get you started, try the Mediterranean Diet or the DASH Diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension). Both of these eating plans provide a solid foundation for building a heart-healthy diet.
Daily physical activity is key to a healthy heart. The current World Health Organization guidelines for adults age 18 to 64 recommend:
- At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise each week (or a combination). Each activity session should last at least 10 minutes.
- For even more health benefits, increase the above minimum activity amounts to 300 or 150 minutes (respectively) per week.
- Strength-training of major muscle groups for two or more days a week.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Being overweight or obese increases the risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Maintaining a body mass index (BMI) of less than 25 and/or a waist circumference of 40 inches or less for men and 35 inches or less for women is recommended.
Eliminate harmful substances.
This one is straightforward: stop smoking if you do smoke, avoid secondhand smoke, and drink only in moderation if you choose to drink.
Learning to manage stress in healthy ways is important for both your physical and mental health. Breathing exercises, meditation, getting out in nature, physical activity, hobbies and simply taking time for yourself are all ways to help cope with stress.
Get enough sleep.
The impact of sleep on health can be huge. Not getting enough quality sleep increases your risk of high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, diabetes and depression. Aim for 7 to 9 hours each night. If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, start implementing a healthy nighttime routine that includes going to bed at the same time; avoiding screens, caffeine, sugar and alcohol at night; and sleeping in a quiet, comfortable room.
Control existing medical conditions.
If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes or other conditions like thyroid disease, it’s important to get and keep these disorders under control, as they can all greatly increase your risk for heart disease.
Get regular checkups.
Even if you feel healthy, it is important to have regular medical checkups, as some conditions like high blood pressure and high cholesterol can occur without symptoms. You should also know your family history and provide this information to your doctor. How often you should be screened depends on whether you have an inherited risk, your age and your health status. Consult your doctor to find out what is right for you.
The team at Advanced Cardiovascular Specialists consists of North Louisiana’s leading experts in cardiovascular care. To schedule an appointment, please call our office at 318-798-9400.