Heart disease is a common health problem that affects both men and women. It can lead to angina (pain in your chest), heart attack, stroke or other problems.
A healthy lifestyle can prevent most heart problems and help you live longer. The CDC recommends five ways to start your journey towards a healthier heart:
1. Eat a Healthy Diet
Eating a healthy diet can help reduce your risk of developing heart disease. A heart-healthy diet is low in saturated fat, high in fibre and includes a wide variety of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, fish and nuts.
A heart-healthy diet also helps you to cut down on salt and added sugars, which are linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Aim to fill a quarter of your plate with protein foods like lean meat, poultry, eggs, beans and legumes, and nuts. Eat a wide range of fruits and vegetables to get all the nutrients you need.
2. Exercise Regularly
Exercising regularly is a great way to keep your heart healthy. It helps lower your blood pressure, cholesterol and body weight.
It can also help you build strength and boost your energy. It can even improve your mood and reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.
During exercise, your heart muscle gets stronger and your capillaries, your body’s tiny blood vessels, widen. This helps increase blood flow to the heart and lungs, and keeps your oxygen levels high.
A balanced routine of aerobic exercises (jogging, swimming or cycling) and resistance training (weightlifting) is a safe and effective way to prevent heart disease. Talk to your doctor about what is right for you.
3. Quit Smoking
Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to protect your heart. Tobacco smoke contains toxic chemicals that damage the arteries and increase your risk for heart disease and other chronic health problems.
Smoking also increases your blood pressure, causes an irregular heart rhythm, and stiffens the arteries to reduce their flexibility. All of these changes make it harder for your heart to pump blood and may lead to a heart attack or stroke.
When you quit, your risk for heart disease decreases dramatically and continues to go down. Similarly, your risk for lung cancer and other respiratory diseases, such as asthma, will drop as well.
4. Manage Your Blood Pressure
One of the best ways to prevent heart disease is to manage your blood pressure. This is usually done by following a heart-healthy eating plan and being active regularly.
A healthy diet helps to lower high blood pressure and can include foods that are low in sodium (salt). It’s also important to increase the amount of potassium in your daily diet, which can help balance the body’s sodium levels.
Exercise helps reduce blood pressure by increasing the heart’s pumping rate, so brisk walking is an excellent way to start. You can also try other aerobic exercises such as jogging, biking, swimming or dance.
5. Manage Your Weight
Your weight affects your heart health in several ways, including affecting your blood pressure and cholesterol. A healthy diet can help reduce these risk factors.
Managing your weight is one of the most important things you can do to prevent heart disease. Losing just a little bit of weight can lower your heart disease risk significantly.
The key is to manage your weight through a combination of diet and exercise. Try to limit high-calorie, nutrient-poor foods like processed or fast food and increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Use a small plate or bowl to help control your portions. Also watch your sodium intake. Ideally, healthy adults should have no more than 2,300 milligrams of salt a day (about a teaspoon). This helps to lower your blood pressure and improve your heart health.