According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), heart disease is responsible for 1 in every 4 deaths in the U.S. each year and is the leading cause of death for both men and women. While heart disease takes many forms and can be genetic, some forms of heart disease are preventable with healthy decisions and habits. A commitment to healthy habits, nutrition and exercise can often reduce your risk and improve your overall quality of life.
One of the biggest risk factors for heart disease is smoking. Those who smoke are at a higher risk for many diseases—including respiratory disease, stroke and certain types of cancer. It’s important that you quit smoking right away to reduce your risk of negative health impacts. Smoking damages blood vessels and causes plaque to build up. Plaque can block blood from traveling freely through your arteries and veins and lead to a clot or heart attack. Michigan offers a free quitline to help you stop smoking for good. Call 1-800-QUIT-NOW for more information on resources and programs to help when quitting tobacco.
Make healthy diet choices.
Another key to keeping your heart healthy is your diet. The foods and drinks you consume have a direct impact on your heart health and simple changes could have large benefits in the long run. Cutting down on sugary drinks is a great place to start. Take soda, for example. One 12-ounce bottle of Coke has 39 grams of added sugar. The American Heart Association recommends a daily added sugar limit of 36 grams for men and 24 grams for women. That means one bottle of Coke has almost double the recommended added sugar limit for women. Sugar is easily turned into body fat and can contribute to heart disease in large amounts. When it comes to food, avoiding processed and refined carbohydrates is key. Whole grains should make up the majority of your carbohydrates. This means replacing white bread, white rice and sugary cereal with whole grain bread, brown rice and steel cut oats.
Get (and stay) active.
Being active goes a long way when it comes to maintaining a healthy heart. Regular exercise can help reduce blood pressure, lower the bad type of cholesterol and promote weight loss. Aerobic exercises (also known as cardio workouts) involve raising your heart rate for an extended period of time. Going for a run or even using a home fitness DVD are great ways to get your heart pumping. Anaerobic exercises are higher intensity and shorter in duration. Examples include heavy weightlifting and high intensity interval training (HIIT). These activities burn high amounts of calories and strengthen your bones and muscles. When starting anaerobic exercises, it can be helpful to ask a trainer to provide you with a program to get you started. And don’t discount the health benefits of lower impact workouts. Going for a walk every day is a great way to maintain your activity levels.
There are plenty of things you can do to keep your heart healthy, and taking steps to prevent heart disease can be easier than you think. Don’t wait—ditch those bad habits and create some good ones today.