In the United States, the numbers of deaths due to heart disease each year are staggering. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men, women, and people of most racial and ethnic groups in the US.”
Their numbers show about 647,000 deaths each year which is about one person every 37 seconds. It’s almost impossible to even wrap your head around that number!
So how do we avoid being a statistic? Are there things we should be doing to prevent heart disease in our own lives? Absolutely! There are plenty of ways you can turn the odds in your favor and help reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, artery disease… anything related to your entire cardiovascular system.
Think of your body as a car. When it was brand new, it didn’t need much in the way of maintenance or repairs, but as the years go by, there’s a little more wear and tear under the hood.
The nuts and bolts might need a little extra care here and there, but the tubes and hoses, and all the fluids require routine but essential maintenance. If a hose gets clogged, the fluids can’t reach their destination and the whole motor might blow!
Can you see how this relates to your body? Your heart is the motor to your entire body. It pumps blood everywhere and makes sure your blood gets oxygenated. Therefore, it’s critical to make sure the pipes and hoses, and tubes (veins and arteries) are all working their best so the heart can do its job.
There’s never been a better time than right now to evaluate your heart health. Take a look at the recommendations below and put your new heart-healthy plan into action!
Heart Healthy Diet – Make Healthy Food Choices
You may have heard of a heart-healthy diet, and if the word ‘diet’ was removed it would probably be easier for most people to want to follow. The word ‘diet’ is often interpreted by the brain as being a ‘restriction.’ In this case, there are a few foods we should avoid, but generally it’s all about making better food choices.
It’s all about consuming less processed foods and enjoying more whole foods. Aim for healthier options. That’s the main concept. If you are dining out, choose baked foods over fried. Make sure you’re getting enough fresh fruits and vegetables. Opt for healthy fats, such as olive oil, and choose leaner meats in the grocery store.
As far as the limitations, it’s important to keep an eye on salt and processed carbohydrates. That doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a candy bar occasionally, just don’t make it an everyday habit. You can easily substitute it with a piece of fruit or cup of yogurt to satisfy the sugar craving.
One great diet plan is the Mediterranean diet. So if you have trouble knowing what to eat, take a look at that ‘lifestyle diet.’
Exercise Regularly – Make It a Daily Habit
Regular physical activity is an excellent way to decrease your risk of heart disease. If you’re an active person, you are already helping your heart stay healthy.
If you are just starting fresh, work your way up, and aim for a weekly schedule that incorporates moderate exercise, such as walking. A reasonable goal for moderate exercise is 150 minutes a week. Start with 5 minutes several times a day and keep pushing forward. Walk the dog, do some housework, and take the stairs instead of the elevator.
There are countless ways to get in those extra steps. Plus, technology gives us all sorts of apps and wearable devices to help keep us on track.
Reduce Stress on Your Body
We aren’t in control of a lot of things in our lives, but we can help control the stressors so they don’t become bigger problems. Stress is a silent killer and has a lot to do with the health of your heart. Make time for self-care activities, even if it’s just a few minutes each day. Spend some time alone and decompress from all your daily worries.
When we get stressed, many of us turn to unhealthy remedies, such as smoking, drinking, overeating, etc. All of these ‘remedies’ damage the heart. Find an alternative stress-reducer that fits your lifestyle and use it.
Another important part of stress reduction is getting good, quality sleep. Adults need about seven to eight hours at least of good, quality sleep. How many times do you break your sleep cycle each night? Are you reaching for your phone when you wake up to use the restroom?
Do you find yourself rummaging in the pantry for a snack? If that sounds like you, find ways to make your sleep better and with fewer interruptions. You’ll feel more rested and less stressed when you start the new day.
Routine Health Screenings
Probably one of the most important, yet least favored parts of preventing heart disease and stroke is consulting your primary care provider for routine screenings. Your medical providers are there to help you live the best life possible, and if you don’t know something is going on, you can’t possibly repair it. Annual screenings are necessary throughout adulthood, and even more critical as we age.
Take care of the vessel you’ve been given and it will take care of you! Chances are, you’ve either had cardiovascular concerns yourself, or you know someone who has. It may be scary, but it can be prevented.
Don’t allow yourself to be a statistic! You can make a better life for yourself with even just a few modifications to your lifestyle. Aren’t you worth it?