If you have heart disease or it runs in your family, you know how important it is to take care of your health. Even if you don’t have heart disease, it’s good to know what changes you can make to your diet and lifestyle so that you can reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure.
We all know that diet and exercise play a key role in heart health. Find a healthy eating plan that works for you. Reduce saturated and trans fats (found in butter and margarine) and avoid fried and processed foods as much as possible. Introduce more fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet, aiming for 5-9 servings a day. Stick to food to get the nutrients and vitamins your body needs, not supplements. I recommend Centrum Silver or a similar generic multivitamin for my patients who don’t get enough nutrients from the food they eat. Read the package labels on the foods you eat regularly and become aware of what you’re eating!
Exercise five days a week–aim for relatively vigorous activity for 30 minutes a day or less vigorous activity for 45 minutes each day. Whether you are just starting or you are continuing an exercise plan, it’s important to find an activity that you enjoy and that works for you and your day. We all have busy schedules, but there is plenty of opportunity to fit in half an hour of exercise before work, during your lunch break or before bed. Walking is the easiest form of exercise to achieve heart health. The Institute of Medicine recommends that you aim for 10,000 steps a day.
I tell my patients that they should recognize that the world is fast-paced and stressful and they should find techniques that work for them to reduce this stress.Dr. Daniel Friedman, cardiologist at Presbyterian Heart and Vascular Care
Research shows that exercise is an excellent way to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, help reach weight loss goals and improve circulation, all of which reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.
Exercise has great physical benefits, but did you know that there are also huge benefits to your emotional health? Physical activity helps reduce and relieve stress and depression and releases endorphins that help you feel more relaxed and rested. I tell my patients that they should recognize that the world is fast-paced and stressful and they should find techniques that work for them to reduce this stress. Breathing exercises, biofeedback, tai chi and yoga can all help you calm down and control your stress.
If you have a family history of heart disease, make sure you have regular general screenings to check your cholesterol, blood pressure and risk of diabetes. If someone in your family has had a heart attack or stroke, your chances of heart disease are much more likely. You can’t change your genetics but you can make changes to your lifestyle to help you reduce your risk, including weight loss, quitting smoking, eating healthy and getting plenty of exercise.
There are plenty of resources online to learn more about how you can improve your heart health and lower your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke. Here are some sites I recommend: