5 Tips for Heart Health 

Many people only worry about their heart health when things go wrong, however, as a physician, I believe it’s important to help raise awareness about preventing heart disease, which is the number 1 killer of both men and women in the United States.

The good news is that heart disease is largely preventable.  Certain conditions predispose you to heart disease such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking or being overweight. But there’s a lot you can do to lead a heart-healthy life and reduce your risk.  You don’t have to make big changes all at once- even small steps can make a significant difference.  Here are 5 heart-healthy tips you can incorporate into your life to help protect your heart:

  1. Be more physically active and maintain a healthy weight

Try moving more!  Aim to get at least 2 ½ hours of physical activity each week, which is about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.  In addition, do muscle-strengthening exercises 2 days a week.  Finding it hard to stay motivated?  Spread the love and get a friend to work out with you. People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk of heart disease.  Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, lower your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.  

  1. Eat a nutritious diet with heart-healthy foods

Improving your diet can lower your risk of heart disease in many ways including lowering your cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, and insulin levels and improving the function of your heart and blood vessels.  A heart-healthy diet involves choosing certain foods (such as fruits and vegetables) and limiting others (such as saturated and trans fats and added sugars).   Two diets that are often recommended for heart health are the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet and the Mediterranean Diet.  The DASH Diet has been proven to lower blood pressure and LDL “bad” cholesterol in the blood.  The Mediterranean Diet is a healthy eating pattern that has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease as well as other chronic diseases.

You can check out a quick list of foods to eat and to limit here.

  1. Quit smoking

Smoking raises your risk of heart disease and heart attacks and worsens other heart disease risk factors.  Also, try to avoid secondhand smoke.  If you are having trouble quitting smoking on your own, consider joining a support group. 

  1. Reduce stress

This past year has been stressful for many people!  Stress can contribute to high blood pressure and other heart disease risk factors. It can also serve as a trigger for cardiac chest pain in some people.  Learning how to manage stress can improve both your physical and mental health.  Some methods to help reduce stress are speaking with a professional counselor, stress management programs, meditation, relaxation techniques, yoga, and talking with friends/family or other support systems.  

  1. Get enough sleep 

Sleep plays a vital role in our overall health.  Adults should aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night.  During sleep, our bodies are working to help heal and repair our heart and blood vessels, maintain a healthy balance of hormones, support a healthy immune system, and maintain our general physical health.  Over time, sleep deprivation can raise our risk of chronic health problems like heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.  To get better quality sleep, avoid caffeine or large meals close to bedtime, try to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day, keep your bedroom cool, quiet and dark, and take a bath or try relaxation techniques before bed.

Remember, healthy living is a journey, not a destination and you have to find a lifestyle plan that best fits your individual needs.  Small changes can add up to big results!

Dr. Sonali Ruder – The Foodie Physician

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