Protect Your Heart: 5 Tips on How to Prevent Heart Disease
Updated: Feb 11
The heart is the body's lifeline, its pulse. Without a beating heart, we cannot live. This is why it is crucial to maintain a healthy heart throughout our lives. However, in the United States, heart disease has become an epidemic. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), heart disease is the leading cause of death amongst both men and women in the United States (2). It is estimated that every 37 seconds, someone in the U.S. loses their life to heart disease. In America alone, 647,000 people die from heart disease every year (2). Some of the risk factors for heart disease are out of our control such as genetics, age, gender, race, and ethnicity. However, there are plenty of things that can be done to reduce your chances of getting heart disease.
Stop Smoking: The chemicals present in tobacco are extremely toxic to your heart. In cigarettes alone, there is a mix of 7000 chemicals (5). These chemicals cause major damage to your blood vessels and your heart. When you inhale cigarette smoke, the chemicals contaminate the blood and the contaminated blood is then distributed throughout the rest of the body. Smoking also changes the chemistry of your blood (5). It causes a plaque-like substance to build up in your arteries and blood vessels, making it more difficult for the blood to move through them, which can lead to heart attack and stroke due to blood clots (5). It has been shown that even just 20 minutes after quitting smoking, a person’s heart rate returns to normal (5). The longer you can go without smoking, the more the body benefits and begins to function normally. Quit smoking, your heart and body will thank you for it!
Exercise: One way you can make your heart stronger is by exercising. The CDC recommends at least 150 minutes of physical activity every week (4). Though this number may seem high, if you break it down, that is roughly 30 minutes of exercise every day. This can be a brisk walk around your neighborhood, dancing, swimming, yoga, anything that gets your body moving and your heart rate up. Exercise reduces your risk of stroke, metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, Type 2 diabetes, anxiety, depression, and cardiovascular disease (1). So, get up and move that body!
Eat Healthily: Eating healthy is crucial to having a healthy heart! In order for your body and heart to be healthy, it is important to nourish it properly. According to the American Heart Association, a healthy diet includes a mixture of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, skinless poultry and fish, nuts and legumes, and non-tropical vegetable oils (6). These foods are full of vitamins and nutrients that will keep your body happy and healthy. Avoid or limit saturated fats, trans fats, sodium, red meat, and large amounts of sugar in your diet as these foods often do not have the nutrients your body needs to stay healthy (6). Make sure to fuel and nourish your body with the food you eat, not deprive it.
Sleep: For many adults, sleep is often not prioritized. However, getting 7 hours of sleep isn’t just a recommendation, it’s a necessity. Lack of sleep can have detrimental impacts on your heart health and your overall body health. It is while you sleep, that the body takes time to repair itself. It has been shown that 1 in 3 adults is not getting the recommended amount of sleep a night, which is 7 hours (3). Those that do not get the recommended amount of sleep are at a higher risk for stroke, heart attack, heart diseases, depression, asthma, diabetes, weight gain, and high blood pressure (3). So make sure to get those 7 hours of sleep, it’s more important than you realize.
Wellness Checks: Going to regular check-ups at your doctor's is crucial for preventative care. These check-ups provide doctors the opportunity to catch signs of heart disease early and treat them before they manifest into something worse. It is important for your doctor to monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood glucose, and body mass index, and make sure they are all in healthy ranges. Talk to your doctor, even if you’re not sick.
1. 7 great reasons why exercise matters. (2019, May 11). Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise/art-20048389
2. Heart Disease Facts. (2019, December 2). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm
3. How Does Sleep Affect Your Heart Health? (2018, December 3). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/features/sleep-heart-health/index.html
4. How much physical activity do adults need? (2020, January 9). Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/adults/index.htm
5. How Smoking Affects Heart Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/tobacco-products/health-information/how-smoking-affects-heart-health
6. The American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/aha-diet-and-lifestyle-recommendations