Heart disease is the leading cause of death for Americans, accounting for 1 in 4 deaths in the United States. Nearly half of Americans have at least one risk factor for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, obesity, physical inactivity, or an unhealthy diet. Risk also increases with age.
The good news is that 80% of heart disease may be prevented through lifestyle changes while managing medical conditions.
RISK FACTORS THAT CAN BE MANAGED: You can control or treat these risk factors with lifestyle changes and your healthcare provider’s help:
- | High blood pressure
- | Smoking
- | High blood cholesterol
- | Lack of regular activity
- | Obesity or overweight
- | Diabetes
RISK FACTORS YOU CAN’T CONTROL: You can’t change these factors:
Knowing your numbers is important! The American Heart Association recommends that you be aware of five key numbers: Total Cholesterol, HDL (good) Cholesterol, Blood Pressure, Blood Sugar and Body Mass Index (BMI).
These numbers have several unique things in common: any person can make these changes, the steps are not expensive, and they are linked to the foods you eat. Even modest improvements to your health will make a big difference. Start with one or two.
1. MANAGE BLOOD PRESSURE
When Blood Pressure stays within healthy ranges, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys, which keeps you healthier longer. 120/80 is normal blood pressure.
While there is no cure, blood pressure is manageable and preventable by adopting a healthy lifestyle that includes a diet low in salt, saturated fats, cholesterol and alcohol. Physical activity and weight loss are also key factors in lowering your numbers.
2. CONTROL CHOLESTEROL
High Cholesterol contributes to plaque, which can clog Arteries and lead to Heart Disease and Stroke. When you control your Cholesterol, you are giving your arteries their best chance to remain clear of blockages. Check with your doctor for your goals.
An active lifestyle, a diet low in carbohydrates, not smoking, a healthy weight and decreasing alcohol can lower total cholesterol levels while leading to lower LDL and higher HDL levels.
3. REDUCE BLOOD SUGAR
Getting too much added sugar in your diet could significantly increase your risk of heart disease.
Most U.S. adults consume about 22 teaspoons of added sugars a day. That’s more than three times the recommended amount. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons or 100 calories a day of added sugar.
Decrease regular soft drinks, sugars, candy, cakes, cookies, pies and fruity drinks, ice cream, sweetened yogurt, sweetened milk.
4. GET ACTIVE
There are many types of physical activity that can improve your cholesterol levels, lower your blood pressure and simply make you feel good. It can be as simple as walking briskly for 10- 30 minutes a day. It all adds up.
Living an active life is one of the most rewarding gifts you can give yourself and those you love. Simply put, daily physical activity increases your length and quality of life.
5. EAT BETTER
The message has not changed. A healthy diet is one of your best weapons for fighting Cardiovascular Disease. When you eat a heart-healthy diet, you improve your chances for feeling good and staying healthy – for life!
Use these tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for heart healthy eating. Check out the recommended foods list and the daily sample menu.
6. LOSE WEIGHT
When you shed extra fat and unnecessary pounds, you reduce the burden on your heart, lungs, blood vessels and skeleton. Check out some other benefits of a healthy Body Max Index (BMI) below:
- Fewer joint and muscle pains
- Greater lifestyle independence and easier daily activities
- Better regulation of bodily fluids and blood pressure
- Reduced burden on your heart and circulatory system
- Better sleep patterns
- More effective metabolism of sugars and carbohydrates
- Reduced risk for heart disease and certain cancers
To lose weight, you must use up more calories than you take in. One pound equals 3,500 calories. To successfully and healthfully lose weight—and keep it off—most people need to subtract about 500 calories per day from their diet to lose about 1 pound per week. Click here to find if your weight is in a healthy range using a BMI calculator
7. STOP SMOKING
Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing Cardiovascular Disease. It may surprise you that smoking increases the risk of heart disease and stroke by 2 to 4 times. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do for your health.
Begin a healthy lifestyle journey now that positively impacts the way you look and feel, inside and out! Prevention is key to changing outcomes!
Go Red for Women (www.goredforwomen.org)
The American Heart Association (http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/)
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (www.eatright.org/)