3 Tips for Preventing Heart Disease

Active seniors exercising to prevent heart disease

Most of us know someone affected by the symptoms of heart disease. But did you know it’s the leading cause of death in the U.S.? About 735,000 Americans have heart attacks every year.1

That means that heart health and wellness are important issues to think about.

You can take steps to help prevent heart disease and heart attacks by adopting healthy behaviors and habits that can lower your risk.

Tip 1: Exercise!
The American Heart Association (AHA) suggests that exercising for 20-30 minutes daily is a good place to start. It can help improve cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and even help you lose weight – all of which help lower your heart disease risks.2

“Moderate exercise” is simply anything that makes your body move and burns calories, so get creative when adding exercise into your routine. Jog with the dog, bike around your neighborhood, have a walking meeting with your coworkers, or even play a game of tag with your kids or grandkids.

It may also be a good idea to join an exercise group. Many health centers and neighborhoods have community groups you can join, making participation and accountability easier. Plus, if you’re enrolled in Medicare, your plan may include free or low-cost access to programs as part of your coverage.

Tip 2: Eat a lean and balanced diet
It’s not surprising that a healthy heart is linked to a healthy diet. The AHA suggests eating a balanced variety from all food groups, and limiting nutrient-poor foods.3 A good marker to see how well you’re eating is to look at the color variety of the foods on your plate. Lots of natural foods with bright colors (think peppers and squash and leafy greens) probably means you’re doing well. If you see a large portion of your plate covered in baked white or brown foods, or processed foods with dyes, you more than likely have room to improve your eating habits.

Some good items to add to your diet include grilled or baked proteins like fish and chicken, nuts, peas and beans, and whole grains like quinoa and brown rice.

Stay away from foods that have a lot of trans fats, which often include bagged or boxed desserts and pre-packaged breakfast foods.

Worried about missing out on snacks and desserts? You can enjoy fruits and sweets that are freshly prepared, like baked apples and cinnamon or orange slices and dark chocolate. In fact, there are many recipes that you can follow that satisfy cravings and also work as part of a balanced, heart-healthy diet!

Tip 3: Know your health!
Being honest about how healthy you are is an important first-step in knowing how you can improve your heart’s health.

Do a quick self-assessment: Do you smoke? Do you have high blood pressure? Do you have high cholesterol? Are you overweight? Do you have a family history of heart disease? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you more than likely face a greater risk for having heart disease.3

Start by working on the things you can control. Stop smoking and stay away from second-hand smoke, eat a healthy diet, and be consistent with exercising to help lower your cholesterol, blood pressure and weight.

Then, be aware of any family history of heart disease and take steps to control the risks. You can monitor your cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Make time to talk to you doctor about other ways you can improve your health with medications and healthy behaviors.

You cannot prevent heart disease risks due to your family history. However, awareness about your health history and common heart disease triggers can be a powerful resource to help you manage your symptoms and risks.

Protect yourself
Another important part of protecting your heart is to know the signs that something is wrong. Symptoms of a heart attack or heart problem can include chest pain and shortness of breath, especially during activities that are normal for you. And, always check with your doctor for more information about preventing heart disease.

SOURCES:
1
CDC (2017, August 24). Web page: Heart Disease. Retrieved October 24, 2017, from https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm.

2American Heart Association (2017, July 27). Web page: American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults. Retrieved October 24, 2017, from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/American-Heart-Association-Recommendations-for-Physical-Activity-in-Adults_UCM_307976_Article.jsp#.We-OuFWnGpo.

3American Heart Association (2017, September 1). Web page: Understand Your Risks to Prevent a Heart Attack. Retrieved October 24, 2017, from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HeartAttack/UnderstandYourRiskstoPreventaHeartAttack/Understand-Your-Risks-to-Prevent-a-Heart-Attack_UCM_002040_Article.jsp#.We-THlWnGpo.

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