1. Make Time to Play
Adults need at least 30 minutes of exercise five or more days a week for heart health. Make exercise playtime and you’re more likely to get it done. Play kickball with your kids, walk the dog, or shoot hoops, or go “mall-walking” with co-workers on your lunch break.
Go for a total of at least 30 minutes of exercise daily and break it up, if you like. Aim for a 10-minute morning walk, workout with hand weights at lunch, and some digging in the garden before dinner, and you’ve met your goals.
2. Add the ‘Food Rules’ to Your Memory
Limit Bad Fat:
If you eat a typical diet, this one change can bring dramatic results:
- Eat less saturated fat.
- You can reduce your risk of heart issues by half.
- Start by switching to low-fat meat and dairy, and change to healthier fats like olive and canola oils.
Cut the Salt:
- Cook without salt, limit processed foods, and go easy on the salt shaker.
- Aim to bring down the sodium you eat to 1,500 milligrams, daily limit.
Pump Up Produce:
- Eat at least 2 1/2 cups of vegetables and fruit every day.
- You’ll lower your risk for heart disease, stroke, and cancer.
- And there’s a slimming bonus for all the nutrients fruits and vegetables provide, you’re also getting few calories and they fill you up.
Go for Grains:
- Whole grains help lower cholesterol and blood pressure, and may help prevent type 2 diabetes.
- Think about corn tortillas, whole wheat pancakes and pasta, bulgur wheat, oatmeal, quinoa, and chewy, delicious brown rice or wild rice.
3. Keep The Pressure Off:
That cuff squeezing your arm at every doctor’s visit is important. It measures the amount of pressure flowing through your arteries with every heartbeat.
If your blood pressure gets too high, the extra force can damage artery walls and create scar tissue. That makes it harder for blood and oxygen to get to and from your heart. The heart has to pump harder and gets worn out faster. If it can’t get enough oxygen, parts can start to die.
Get your blood pressure checked every 3-5 years if you’re 18-39. If you’re 40 or older, or if you have high blood pressure, check it every year.
Cut back on salt, limit alcohol to no more than one to two drinks a day, favor healthy eating habits (think fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein) manage your stress, and work out. These changes are often enough to bring your blood pressure back down into the normal range. If not, your doctor might recommend you also take medication.
4. Find Out If You Have Diabetes
Millions of people don’t know that they have this condition. That’s risky because over time, high blood sugar damages arteries and makes heart disease more likely. Your doctor should test your blood sugar if you are 45 or older, if you are pregnant, or if you’re overweight and have other risk factors for diabetes. If you find out that you have diabetes, work with your doctor on your lifestyle (diet and exercise) and any medicine that you may need.
5. Be Smoke-Free
If you needed one more reason to quit smoking, here’s another. Tobacco is a leading cause of heart attack, stroke and peripheral vascular disease. Smoking is the largest single preventable cause of death, killing over 15,000 each year.
Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but it is a key lifestyle change you can make to protect your heart as well as improving your overall health in a number of vital ways.
6. Maintain A Healthy Weight And Waist Circumference
A healthy weight and waist measurement reduces your risk of developing many chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Waist circumference can be a helpful way to assess how much body fat you are carrying.
7. Seek Treatment For Any Mental Health Issues
Studies have shown a link between mental health problems such as depression and the risk of heart disease. If you feel you are experiencing depression, anxiety, stress or other mental health issues, talking to a health professional is an important first step to getting treatment.