6 Steps to a Healthier Heart

6 Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Heart

Your heart is one of the most important organs in your body. Celebrate World Heart Day by promising to live a healthier life.  Here are 6 steps you can take to reduce your risk of heart disease:

Stay Away From Cigarettes

Cigarette smoke can contaminate your blood with more than 7,000 chemicals.  These chemicals can damage your heart and blood vessels which can lead to cardiovascular disease.  Additionally, cigarette smoke can cause plaque to build up in the arteries which can affect blood flow and create blood clots that can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or death.

If you’re a smoker, it is never too late to quit.  Visit smokefree.gov to learn more about the benefits of quitting and for tools and tips on how to quit.

Limit Your Alcohol Intake

Drinking alcohol can raise your triglyceride levels and blood pressure.  It can also lead to heart failure and stroke.  According to the American Heart Association, men should limit themselves to one or two drinks per day while women should limit themselves to one drink per day.  A drink is considered 12 oz. of beer, 4 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz of 80-proof spirits, or 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits.

Click here to learn more about alcohol and heart health.

Eat Healthy

Stay away from processed foods and eat a variety of fruits and vegetables.  Eat whole grains and choose food that is low in fat, sodium, cholesterol, and sugar.  Make sure to drink plenty of water!

Learn more about healthy eating at https://www.choosemyplate.gov

Exercise Regularly

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity exercise a week.  Physical activity reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.  Adults who exercise regularly have lower blood pressure and better blood lipid profiles.

Check out the current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans here.

Manage Your Stress

When you’re stressed, your body releases adrenaline which increases your heart rate and blood pressure.  Constant stress can result in physical pain and affect you emotionally.  It may prevent you from getting enough sleep and may result in unhealthy coping mechanisms like overeating, drinking, and smoking.  Click here to learn how to identify and effectively manage your stress.

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep doesn’t just allow you to rest.  It also allows your blood pressure to decrease and may help control your blood sugar.  Not getting enough sleep may affect the part of your brain that controls hunger which can cause you to overeat.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults need to sleep for at least 7 hours each night.  Click here for some tips to get better sleep.

Talk to your doctor to before making any lifestyle changes and make sure to ask if you’re at risk for heart disease.