7 Heart Disease Risk Factors You Can Change
Most young adults are not concerned about heart disease and before they know it, they are on meds the rest of their life. If you are in your 20s or older, you should start mitigating your risk factors with these seven preventative lifestyle changes. Be good to your heart and don’t turn 50 wishing you started following these guidelines earlier in life.
Risk factor #1: Cigarettes
The number one most preventable risk factor of cardiovascular disease is smoking. Eliminating cigarettes can be the most import lifestyle change anyone can do to reduce heart disease. According to the Mayo Clinic, more than 500,000 deaths are caused from smoking each year. So don’t wait, get the help you need to quit while you are ahead. Kicking the habit will dramatically improve your longevity and also help limit the exposure of harmful secondhand smoke to your loved ones.
Risk factor #2: Low Activity
Research has shown that inactivity actually doubles your risk factor for heart disease as compared to people that simply walk 30 minutes a day. A sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of a heart attack, as much as smoking. So if your quit smoking and start exercising you can improve your health exponentially. Regular physical exercise will help protect your heart, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and improve your mood and body aches.
Get more fit by walking your dog, shooting hoops with your kids or a friend, or join a fun, regimented 30-minute aerobics class or spin class to make exercise a habit. Even 10-minutes a day in the beginning will make you feel better, look better, and improve the quality of your life.
Risk factor #3: Diet
Unhealthy foods high in fats and sugars can raise your risk of heart disease. You can get your cholesterol and blood pressure under control if you maintain a healthy diet and weight. Having diabetes can double the risk of heart disease in men, and triple it in women. The best approach to a healthy diet is to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats like omega-3s and monounsaturated fat. Whole grains, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, legumes are also good for you. Start a healthy diet plan by limiting animal fats (dairy); and limit fast food and processed foods high in saturated trans-fat. Try “Lose it” or other smart-phone apps to track your daily calories and learn what foods are good for you and which ones aren’t.
Risk factor #4: Stress
Chronic stress radically increases your risk of heart disease, heart attack and emotional distraught. Indirectly, stress also makes people turn to eating comfort foods, smoking or drinking. Exercise and better sleep will decrease your daily stress and improve your well-being.
Risk factor #5: Alcohol
Powerful antioxidants such as resveratrol from a glass of wine a day can provide cardiovascular support, however, overdoing it can actually raise your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Excessive alcohol consumption raises blood pressure and the high calories can contribute to obesity or diabetes. All of this leads to increased risks of heart disease and other health issues. If you drink, limit yourself to 1 ounce of liquor (mixed drink or shot), 4 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer.
Risk factor #6: Blood pressure
High blood pressure, also called hypertension, is the single largest risk factor for stroke. If left uncontrolled, high blood pressure can lead to plaque buildup and thickening or hardening of your arteries. Tips to lowering your blood pressure include, exercise, good sleep, and limiting your salt or sodium intake, alcohol consumption, and smoking. If needed, consult your physician about other ways to lower your blood pressure before it’s too late.
Risk factor #7: Cholesterol
High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol or low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol puts you at an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. To lower your blood cholesterol, reduce your consumption of saturated fat, trans-fat and pay more attention to dietary cholesterol on food labels. Your total daily consumption of cholesterol should be less than 200mg/day. For those of us that like to splurge on the weekends make it an average of less than 1400mg/week.
Take charge of your health, become active, and watch what you eat and drink. You can see and feel results if you set your mind to it. As always, consult your doctor and get annual physicals to test your blood pressure and cholesterol levels to keep them in control.