5 Steps Everyone Can Take for a Healthier Heart

If there’s one muscle you can’t do without, it’s your heart. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that over 600,000 Americans will die of heart disease this year. That’s about one-quarter of all deaths.

There’s no telling how many of these deaths could have been prevented with lifestyle changes, but the fact is most people can improve their heart health with some small changes that offer big benefits.

If you’re committed to a healthier lifestyle, you can likely reduce your risk of developing heart disease substantially. February is American Heart Month, so take a minute to consider these five steps that you — or anyone — can take to give your heart a beating chance to avoid health complications now and in the future.

Avoid tobacco at all costs

The dangers of using tobacco products are well-known, as are the dangers of breathing secondhand smoke. The American Heart Association estimates that over 30,000 premature deaths due to heart disease originate from exposure to secondhand smoke. If you already have other risk factors for heart disease, then secondhand smoke can be a significant risk contributor.

Chemicals present in cigarette smoke cause changes in your body that promote the formation of arterial plaque, a contributor to heart disease. If you smoke, quit. Otherwise, avoid smoky environments for your heart’s sake.

Control your blood pressure

Your blood pressure is a strong predictor of heart disease risk. Your BP is a measure of two things. Systolic blood pressure — the first number in the BP combination — measures the force of your blood pressing on artery walls when your heart beats. The second number is diastolic blood pressure, the arterial wall force when your heart is filling with blood.

Normal blood pressure is 119/79 or lower, and elevated blood pressure starts when the systolic number exceeds 120. The stages of hypertension start at 130/80. You may be surprised how small changes to your lifestyle have a big impact on your blood pressure.

Keep cholesterol in check

For people of a certain age, it seems as though the story of cholesterol keeps changing. Medical science understands cholesterol better now, and it’s known that overall levels as well as balance between two components are important.

“Good” cholesterol is called HDL and it can fall to low levels when compared with LDL, the “bad” cholesterol. With LDL, the lower the better. You can only do so much to change cholesterol through diet. If your levels are high, you may need to control this with prescription medication.

Maintain heart-healthy diet and activity levels

A diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, with plenty of whole grains, lean meats, and healthy fats, can make a big difference in your long-term heart health. Decrease your intake of prepared and fast foods, and instead eat meals in moderate portions made from fresh ingredients. Similarly, improving your activity level may mean as little as adding 30 minutes of walking every day.

Stand up and move

Even when you’re getting reasonable amounts of exercise, remaining seated for long stretches is now recognized as a big heart health risk. If you’re stuck in a job that ties you to a chair, break the bonds hourly and get up for a stretch. Even if you have a good level of physical activity, consider boosting it to counteract your chair time.

Dr. De Bruyn and the team at Heart Rhythm Associates are your partners in restoring and maintaining heart health. You can schedule a consultation by calling our office today. You can also email the practice through our website. An unhealthy heart is too deadly to ignore.  

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