14 Heart Healthy Tips
Heart disease develops over time for a variety of reasons. Some of the most common ones include consuming foods high in fat and cholesterol, smoking, and leading a sedentary lifestyle. You may experience a heart attack after several years of living with heart disease or this sudden cardiac event could come on without any warning.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control(CDC), it caused the deaths of 633,842 people in 2015 alone. While this is an alarming statistic, you can often prevent heart disease. You can’t change the fact that you might have inherited a genetic predisposition or that you have a higher risk due to age or being male. However, making even slight changes to your lifestyle can significantly decrease your risk. Some changes that the cardiology team at Western Maryland Health System (WMHS) recommends include:
- If you smoke, quitting is the most important thing you can do for your heart health. Be sure to seek resources from your WMHS doctor and get plenty of support as you break your addiction to nicotine.
- Monitor your blood pressure regularly and follow your doctor’s recommendations if it’s too high. This could include taking medication to lower your blood pressure, lose weight, exercise, and don’t smoke.
- Read food labels to ensure that you don’t consume too much cholesterol. This fatty substance is in many foods, and an excess of it can cause a blood clot or hardening of the arteries.
- Fish such as herring, salmon, sardines, and tuna contain important omega-3 fatty acids that benefit both your heart and your brain. We recommend that you eat at least two servings of fish each week. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, ask your doctor about taking a fish oil supplement.
- Even the American Heart Association (AHA) says that you shouldn’t take yourself or life too seriously. Laughing frequently can lower inflammation of the arteries and reduce stress hormones. Most importantly, it increases good cholesterol called high-density lipoprotein (HDL) that your body needs for maximum heart health.
- Excess intake of salt is a leading contributor to heart disease, so think twice before you sprinkle it on everything you eat. Reducing salt intake is so important that the World Health Organization (WHO) has established a goal for people to consume just five to six grams per day by 2025.
- If you have diabetes, manage your blood sugar by taking medication or insulin prescribed by your doctor and consuming a healthy diet low in carbohydrates. Visit your doctor regularly to obtain your A1C reading and check your own blood sugar at home at various times throughout the day.
- Losing weight if you’re overweight or obese greatly reduces the stress on your heart. You’re considered overweight if your body mass index (BMI) is greater than 25, obese if it’s between 30 and 39, and morbidly obese if it’s over 40. Your height, weight, and gender determine your BMI.
- Try to move more and sit less every day. Even a moderate amount of physical activity can have significant benefits for your heart. If you’re currently inactive, be sure to have your doctor complete a physical exam before you begin an exercise program.
- Triglycerides are the main ingredient in animal fats and vegetable oil. It’s important to keep your triglyceride level below 150 milligrams per deciliter of blood. Borderline is between 150 and 200, high triglycerides are between 200 and 400, and anything over 500 is extremely high. If you don’t know your triglyceride level, schedule a blood test with your doctor.
- Include almonds, pecans, walnuts, and other tree nuts in your diet as much as possible. Nuts contain healthy fats as well as high amounts of fiber and protein. Even so, it’s important to watch your serving size since nuts are also high in calories.
- Eat a healthy and balanced diet that includes fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats, and low sodium. The United States Department of Agriculture recommends that no more than seven percent of daily calories come from saturated fat. Be sure to limit drinks containing alcohol as well.
- Depression and social isolation increase your risk of heart disease along with several other serious health conditions. See your doctor if you have felt sad, unusually apathetic, or hopeless for more than two weeks. It’s also important to get out of the house every day if possible and socialize with others regularly.
- Never skip breakfast, no matter how much of a hurry you are to get somewhere. After not eating for eight or more hours, your body needs the nourishment. Good heart-healthy choices for breakfast include low-fat dairy products such as yogurt or cheese, fruits and vegetables, lean sources of protein like turkey bacon, and foods containing whole grains or whole wheat.
While this is a long list, it’s only the beginning of things you can do to improve the health of your heart. Your primary care provider at WMHS would be happy to provide additional suggestions or help you overcome challenges as you strive to make lifestyle changes.
Please note, the information provided throughout this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and video, on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. If you are experiencing relating symptoms, please visit your doctor or call 9-1-1 in an emergency.