7 Ways to Control Your Risk for Heart Disease
According to the American Heart Association, heart disease is the number 1 killer of women, and takes the life of 1 in 3 women each year. Join together to fight against heart disease by being proactive about your health – prevention is the key!
1. Get Active
The American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day (walking fast, biking, jogging), 5 days a week. If you commit to an active lifestyle you will feel healthier while also lowering your risks for heart disease, stroke and diabetes. If you don’t currently exercise, start simple – just walk. Walk fast enough to increase your heart rate. In the beginning, don’t stop trying each day. Your endurance will improve and something is always better than nothing!
2. Control Cholesterol
When your cholesterol levels are low your arteries can remain clear of blockages which lead to heart disease and stroke. Cholesterol is a waxy substance created and used by our bodies to make cell membranes and some hormones. But too much bad cholesterol (LDL) combines with white blood cells and creates plaque in your veins and arteries thus making it harder for your heart to circulate blood. Healthy eating and increasing exercise are great first steps to lowering your cholesterol levels. For some people, medication may be required to assist in lowering cholesterol. Talk to your physician and find out what is best for you.
3. Eat Better
Healthy food is the fuel for our bodies. Be sure to load your plate with vegetables, fruit, low-fat dairy, whole grains and lean meats. Start by making small changes over time, and take them one at a time. By not rushing to overhaul your diet, the changes are more likely to stick and become part of your lifestyle.
4. Manage Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. When you keep your blood pressure within a healthy range it reduces the strain on your heart, arteries and kidneys. An ideal blood pressure is 120/80. If your top (systolic) number is at 140 or above and your bottom (diastolic) number is at 90 or above – you are considered to have high blood pressure. You can lower your blood pressure by losing weight, exercising, eating healthy, reducing sodium intake, limiting alcohol consumption, avoiding tobacco, cutting back on caffeine and reducing your stress level.
5. Reduce Weight
If you have too much fat, especially around your mid-section, you are at a higher risk for health problems such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. You can reduce your risk for these problems by losing weight – and keeping it off. Even 5-10 lbs. can create a dramatic difference with your overall health. You can lose weight by eating healthier and/or starting an exercise routine.
6. Lower Blood Sugar
When we eat, most of the food we consume is turned into glucose (blood sugar) that our bodies use as energy. If you are fasting your blood sugar level should be at or below 100, which indicates you are in the healthy range. If not your test results may indicate pre-diabetes or diabetes. To lower your blood sugar levels reduce your consumption of foods like soda, candy or sugary desserts.
7. Stop Smoking
Did you know that tobacco smoke contains more than 7,000 chemicals? Quitting is the best thing you can do for your health, as it affects your whole body. Smoking damages your circulatory system, reduces your good cholesterol and lung capacity and increases your risk for heart disease, hardened arteries, aneurysm and blood clots. Plus second hand smoke can affect your family in the same ways just from being around you when you are smoking.
This list may seem daunting, but start simple. By exercising more and eating better you will lose weight and lower your cholesterol and blood sugar which will lead to a healthier lifestyle for you and your family.
Share this with at least one woman in your life and help prevent heart disease today!
Sources:American Heart Association American Lung Association Centers for Disease Control U.S. Department of Health & Human Services