Making Changes to Avoid Heart Disease   

Making Changes to Avoid Heart Disease


A healthy heart requires a healthy lifestyle.

Your heart is a vital organ that keeps your body functioning. Unfortunately, many people don't treat it that way. Start by making the following lifestyle changes.


Nicotine causes blood vessels to narrow. This makes it hard for blood to reach your heart. Nicotine also raises blood pressure, and the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke deprives the heart of oxygen. That's why smokers have twice the risk of having a heart attack than nonsmokers. So, if you smoke, it pays to quit.


Eating fatty foods can lead to the buildup of fat deposits in your arteries. This can lead to blockages in the blood flow to your heart, which can cause a heart attack. To help avoid a buildup of fat in your arteries, limit foods that are high in animal fats. These include fatty meats, whole-milk products, egg yolks and fried foods. Choose their low-fat counterparts, such as nonfat milk or low-fat dairy products. In addition, choose cooking oils made with unsaturated fats, such as canola and olive oils. They are healthier than oils made with saturated fats. But since they are still types of fat, use them in limited amounts. Also, try to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.


Exercise gets your heart pumping. This helps your body use oxygen better and makes your heart stronger. It can also decrease your blood pressure and the amount of fat in your blood. Start your exercise program slowly, especially if you haven't been active for a while. Begin with short sessions, such as a 10-minute walk. Gradually increase the length of your workouts; work up to 30 minutes on most days of the week. Be sure to talk with your doctor before starting an exercise program.


Blood pressure is the force exerted on the walls of your blood vessels as blood flows through them. The harder your heart works, the greater your risk of having a heart attack becomes. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), an optimal blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg or less; normal is 130/85 mm Hg. A reading of 139/89 mm Hg is considered high normal, and anything above that is classified as high. Eating less salt may help you lower it. Try adding flavor to your meals with other spices or foods, such as onion and garlic. Make sure you eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as low-fat dairy products. Get an adequate amount of potassium in your diet (at least 3,500 milligrams a day). Limit the amount of saturated and total fats you eat. Try losing weight if you are overweight. Exercise regularly and limit your alcohol intake. Your doctor may even give you pills to lower your blood pressure.

The AHA recommends regular screening for your risk of heart disease beginning at age 20. Screening includes measuring blood pressure, body mass index, waist circumference and pulse every 2 years.


The AHA considers obesity to be a major risk factor for heart disease. If you lose even 5 percent to 10 percent of your weight, you can decrease your risk. Weight loss also helps lower your blood pressure and cholesterol level.


Continued and elevated levels of stress have been consistently linked to health problems including an increased risk for heart disease and cardiac death. Stress is frequently associated with anger, another emotion that is tightly linked with risk of cardiac death. Common ways of dealing with stress, such as overeating and smoking, can harm your heart. Keep your stress low by exercising, sharing your concerns with friends and family, and making some quiet time for yourself each day. Spending 15 to 20 minutes every day doing something you enjoy is a simple, but effective, step toward a less stressful life


Happy reading,

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