7 lifestyle changes for a healthier heart

February 16, 2021 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Hearts

February marks American Heart Month, the perfect time to make some lifestyle changes to improve your heart health.

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States among men, women and most racial or ethnic groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In the U.S., someone has a heart attack about every 40 seconds, according to the CDC, which also attributes 1 in 4 deaths in this country to heart disease.

Some simple lifestyle changes can help improve your heart health. Start now, during American Heart Month:

  • Quit smoking. If you smoke, stop. Smoking is a major cause of heart disease, according to the CDC. Smoking can damage the lining of your blood vessels causing clots to form, and restricting blood flow. Quitting smoking has many health benefits and greatly decreases your risk for heart disease.

  • Exercise. The American Heart Association (AHA) notes that 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity physical activity benefits your heart. Exercise has many health benefits including, lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and keeping your weight at a healthy level — all of which lower your risk for heart disease. If you don’t exercise, start. It may take time to develop a regular exercise habit, but starting now is better than doing nothing. It can be as simple as a 10-minute walk, three times a day. Make this the month you get moving!

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity is prevalent in the U.S. and puts adults at high risk for not only heart disease but other diseases like cancer and diabetes. Obese children have a greater risk for heart disease later in life. Maintaining a healthy weight and body mass index (BMI) can help lower your risk for heart disease. If you are overweight, consider talking to your doctor about weight loss options.

  • Adopt a heart-healthy diet. What you eat affects your health. Be sure your diet includes plenty of nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, skinless poultry and fish, whole grains, nuts and legumes, and low-fat dairy. You should limit sugary treats and drinks, saturated and trans fats, red meats and foods that are high in salt content. Try these heart-healthy recipes.

  • Limit your alcohol intake. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to an increase in blood pressure, produce irregular heart rhythms, or increase other risk factors such as obesity. However, studies have indicated moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages can have some heart health benefits. If you drink, you should limit yourself to no more than two drinks per day for men or one drink per day for women.

  • Manage health conditions. Certain health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure or high cholesterol can increase your risks for heart disease. If diet and exercise don’t help, consult with your doctor to see if medications can help and be sure to take those medications as directed. Regular checkups also will help catch any signs of heart disease early.

  • Reduce stress. According to the AHA, studies have shown a relationship between heart disease and stress. Stress can also lead to other behaviors, such as smoking or overeating, which put you at high risk for heart disease. Exercise and getting a good night’s rest can help reduce stress levels. If stress becomes overwhelming, consider talking to your doctor about other things you can do to stress less.

Your heart is in good hands when you choose us for cardiovascular care. Learn more about our high-quality heart care.

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