February 02, 2018
When it comes to health concerns, heart disease is no joke. In fact, 1 in every 4 deaths in the United States is caused by a heart-related condition. Certain risk factors of heart disease – such as family history – cannot be controlled. However, there are several ways to decrease your chances of having cardiovascular trouble, including making changes to your exercise routine, diet, and tobacco and alcohol habits.
If one or more of the following less-than-optimal health habits apply, you may be at risk for cardiovascular disease:
Regular exercise, or about 30 minutes of activity a day for five days a week, can be instrumental in keeping your heart strong and functioning properly. The bad news? Most Americans don’t get the recommended amount of exercise.
Just like other muscles in the body, your heart needs to be worked. An inactive lifestyle can cause your heart to suffer from not being able to circulate as much blood. Not only that, blood vessels can lose flexibility, making for difficult blood flow and leading to high blood pressure. The good news is that any physical exercise is better than nothing, and finding the right form of movement for you – whether it’s jogging, playing sports, or simply going for a walk after dinner – can help you reach your goals.
The harmful effects of tobacco usage are well known, and it’s no surprise that smoking can play a major role in heart disease. The chemicals found in tobacco damage blood cells, harm the function of the heart, and cause blood vessels to become thick and narrow. This damage increases the risk of atherosclerosis, which can cause heart attacks and fatal heart failure. If you’re a smoker, talk to your doctor about ways to kick the habit.
Eating healthy isn’t always easy, but a well-balanced diet and healthy weight can help prevent heart disease. Researchers have identified 10 crucial foods that either contribute to the prevention or increase the risk of heart disease, from healthy options like fatty fish and vegetables, to harmful options like processed meat and sugary drinks. Findings showed that deaths were directly linked to too much of the bad stuff and too little of the good stuff.
If you’re not eating enough nuts, seafood, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, it’s important to find a way to incorporate these heart-healthy foods into your diet. An unhealthy weight resulting from foods high in sugar and sodium, as well as processed meat, can raise blood cholesterol, increase blood pressure, and cause diabetes, all of which puts you at risk for heart disease.
A few drinks with friends every now and then isn’t cause for concern, but prolonged alcohol abuse can have severe consequences. Binge drinking (5+ drinks for men and 4+ drinks for women on one occasion) on five or more days in a month can have adverse effects on your heart.
The toxicity of alcohol weakens the heart and makes it harder to pump blood eventually, leading the muscle to become enlarged and thinned. In order to avoid irreparable damage and failure, be mindful of how many drinks you consume on a given night, as well as over time.
The prospect of heart disease is frightening, but there are steps you can take to keep your heart in ideal shape. If you find yourself engaging in one or a few of these unhealthy habits, consider having a conversation with your doctor about how you can safely begin making healthy changes to your lifestyle today.