Nearly 800,000 Americans develop heart disease each year. While it tops the list as the leading killer for men and women in the United States, it doesn't have to be. People can ward off heart disease or keep it from worsening by adopting a healthier routine. If you are wondering how to keep your heart healthy, look no further. These seven strategies can help.
1. Eat a heart-healthy diet
According to the American Heart Association, eating a healthy diet can lower heart attack risks by 25%. Diets should be low in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol. Stock the grocery cart with whole fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans and legumes, lean proteins, and foods like avocados, olive oil, and freshwater fish for healthy fats. Limit consumption of sugar and sodium by eliminating processed foods and using spices and herbs to add flavor while cooking.
2. Watch your weight
It is estimated that 69% of adults in the United States are either overweight or obese. Carrying excessive body weight raises risks for heart disease and contributing conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure. Fortunately, when weight comes down, blood pressure and blood sugar levels also drop. A nutritious diet and a regular exercise program pave the way toward lower body weight and a healthier body overall.
3. Quit smoking and avoid second-hand smoke
Whether inhaled directly or second-hand, cigarette or cigar smoke damages arterial cells, promotes blood clots, and raises heart rate and blood pressure. Fortunately, a number of products can help smokers quit like pills, nicotine patches or gum, acupuncture, and self-hypnosis CDs. Just five years after quitting smoking, risks for heart attack lower to that of a nonsmoker.
4. Control cholesterol and blood pressure
In learning how to keep your heart healthy, controlling your cholesterol and blood pressure offers big benefits. High levels of both raise risks for heart disease. Consult a health professional for screening to determine whether action is needed to bring levels down. While a healthy diet and regular exercise often reduce cholesterol and blood pressure, some people may require medication.
5. Drink in moderation
Studies have shown that drinking alcohol in moderation may offer a protective effect for the heart. This means no more than one drink per day for women and men over the age of 65 and two drinks daily for men 65 years of age or younger. Drinking more than a moderate amount of alcohol may have a negative effect on the heart and other areas of the body.
6. Manage stress
If you are a busy person wondering how to keep your heart healthy, consider strategies for managing chronic stress. Not only does stress create muscle tension, but it raises the heart rate and blood pressure. Over time, this can affect heart health. Try engaging in stress-reducing activities like yoga, tai chi, guided imagery, or listening to soft music to help your mind and body relax.
Related: Managing Stress in Everyday Life
7. Control your blood sugar
According to the American Heart Association, keeping blood sugar levels in check is one of seven key behaviors that help promote heart health. High blood sugar affects the dilation of the blood vessels, which increases risks for heart disease. Many people can keep levels in check and prevent the development of type 2 diabetes with a healthy low-sugar diet, but people should get tested by a health care provider to determine if further action is needed.
Adopting healthy lifestyle strategies protects more than just the heart. Armed with knowledge of how to keep your heart healthy, you may also benefit from lower body weight, more energy, and better overall body health. Adopt all seven strategies for optimal benefits.