Prevent heart disease with simple lifestyle changes

Sara J Sirna Professor of Medicine Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine
Prevent heart disease with simple lifestyle changes

More than half of heart disease is preventable. Healthy habits including quitting smoking, eating a balanced diet, regular exercise, reducing stress, and going to your doctor for regular checkups are essential to preventing heart disease. Here is some quick advice to keep you in optimum heart health.


Do

Do eat healthy

Eating healthy is an important factor in lowering your risk for heart disease. Women and men who eat fresh veggies, fruit, legumes, fish, and whole grains significantly reduce their risk of heart disease.

Do drink red wine

Resveratrol is a substance found in red grapes and red wine that is a strong antioxidant and is known to be cardioprotective. Try to incorporate one glass of red wine into your daily diet.

Do exercise regularly

Exercise is known to reduce both your risk for heart disease and your cancer risk. Moderate activity such as walking 30 minutes, gardening, biking, or swimming will boost your mood, keep you healthy, and maintain a normal body weight. Do it with a friend, spouse, or children for added fun.

Do eat nuts

Walnuts and almonds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which help to decrease inflammation in the arteries surrounding your heart keeping your heart functioning longer and better. Limit the amount to six per day for maximum results.

Do take charge of your health care

Ask your doctor questions and know your numbers. Be proactive and check with your doctor on whether you are at low, moderate, or high risk for heart disease or stroke. Know your blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and your BMI. Keeping all of these levels in the normal range as we age may be life saving.


Don't

Do not stress your heart

High levels of stress raises blood pressure, heart rate, and levels of the stress hormone cortisol. People are less and less capable of leaving stress at the office because everyone is connected 24/7. Put some relaxing music on, close your door for 10 min and listen and breathe to relax.

Do not smoke cigarettes

Smoking takes about eight to ten years off your life. It is an expensive and unhealthy habit that injures not only the heart but brain and lungs. When you stop smoking, it cuts risk of heart disease in half after just the first year. It’s never too late to quit!

Do not eat too much salt

High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, and reducing salt intake can help lower blood pressure. Cook with herbs in place of salt, and make sure you read food labels to see just how much salt is in prepared foods. Aim for less than 2.3 grams [about a teaspoon] of salt per day.

Do not forget to get at least seven hours of sleep per night

People who sleep fewer than seven hours a night have higher blood pressure and higher levels of the stress hormone cortisol, making the arteries more vulnerable to plaque buildup. Get into a routine prior to bedtime and try to go to bed at the same time every night. Try to avoid caffeine after three pm so you can make your targeted bedtime.

Do not forget to get regular check ups

A routine exam can detect disease in its early stages and help reduce or prevent heart disease. Be proactive and know your numbers, your blood pressure, cholesterol, and your ideal body weight so you and your doctor can keep track of your progress.


Summary
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Small changes can reduce your risk of heart disease stroke and cancer. Keep a positive attitude, engage a buddy and start today to make healthy choices. You’ll love the way you look and feel. Remember little changes go a long way so keep moving and never give up.
 


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Sara J SirnaProfessor of Medicine

Sara J. Sirna, MD, is a non-invasive cardiologist at Loyola University Health System. She also is a Professor of Medicine at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. Dr. Sirna’s medical interests include women’s heart health, the ma...

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