Reducing your risk for heart disease — the No. 1 cause of death among both American men and women — doesn’t have to be a massive undertaking. By making changes in your daily routine, you can start eliminating the factors that lead to heart disease. While some changes may be more challenging than others, they all can be significant in contributing to your overall heart health — and your longevity.
Make a commitment to adopting these habits as part of your daily routine.
1. Move more.
If you’re already active, congratulations. You’re one of the few Americans who seem to be getting enough exercise. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about 80 percent of American adults are not getting at least 2.5 hours of moderate aerobic exercise each week — the amount recommended by the U.S. government for a healthy lifestyle. So, the takeaway? Try to walk at least 30 minutes each day, and fit in weight lifting or push-ups at least twice a week. Exercise not only helps you lose weight, but it can also reduce your risk of developing heart disease.
2. Control your cholesterol.
During your annual check-ups, your doctor will likely check your cholesterol levels. If you have too much bad cholesterol (LDL), you are at a higher risk of having your arteries blocked by this waxy substance — which puts you at greater risk for heart disease and stroke. You can control your cholesterol by eating fiber-rich foods like beans, vegetables, fruits, and oats. Also, limit your intake of foods high in saturated fats and trans fats like packaged baked goods, deep fried foods, margarine, shortening, frosting and animal fats. They all contribute to higher levels of bad cholesterol. Avoid them.
3. Drop the extra weight.
If you’re exercising more and eating more veggies and cutting down on fried and processed foods, the extra weight should come off naturally. Keep at it. Your heart will be better for it.
4. Manage your blood pressure.
Again, this is another area where a healthy diet and regular exercise can keep your blood pressure under control — contributing to a healthier heart. High blood pressure, which can put too much pressure on your arteries, is another significant risk factor for heart disease and stroke. Besides eating healthy and regularly exercising, you need to keep your stress under control, limit your alcohol intake and, if you smoke, quit the habit.
Changing habits — whether dropping bad ones or adopting new ones — requires discipline. Increase your chances of succeeding by enlisting the help of a buddy to join you in living more healthy. Hold each other accountable and be good to your hearts.