Daily to-dos for a healthier heart

April 21, 2021 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Hearts

Keeping your heart healthy is not something you may think about every day. But you should.

In a 2021 Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics Update Fact Sheet, the American Heart Association (AHA) reports that heart disease remains the number one cause of death in the U.S. and approximately every 39 seconds, an American will have a heart attack.

The good news is that there are some simple changes you can make in your daily life to help lower the risk for heart attack and reduce your chances of developing heart disease.

Here are things you can do each day for a healthier heart:

  1. Don’t smoke. One-third of deaths from coronary heart disease are linked to smoking and secondhand smoke, the AHA states. When you smoke, the carbon monoxide you inhale decreases oxygen in red blood cells, causing heart damage. Smoking can lead to hardening of the arteries and heart attack, according to studies. Vaping is dangerous, too. Learn about health benefits minutes, hours and weeks after you quit smoking.

  2. Get moving. >Walk the dog. Work on your garden. Go for a swim. Walk around the block. Dance like no one is watching. Exercise doesn’t have to be a chore; it can be fun. It takes 30 minutes of brisk activity at least five days a week to keep your heart healthy. The key is finding something you enjoy doing and making it part of your routine. Get heart-healthy exercises.

  3. Eat right. Excess weight contributes to heart disease. Research suggests that even healthy, slim adults can improve their heart health by cutting a few calories each day from their diet. Don’t snack after dinner and find healthy alternatives to sugary sweets and drinks. If you’re overweight or obese, talk with your doctor about how to get to a healthy weight. Check this online nutrition guide called DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) for easy and healthy recipes.

  4. Watch your alcohol intake. Heavier drinking restricts blood vessels and puts you at higher risk of high blood pressure and stroke. It can also contribute to other risk factors for heart disease. Women should drink no more than one drink a day and men to stick to no more than two. Learn about alcohol’s effect on the heart.

  5. Manage your other conditions. Know your numbers. If you have hypertension (high blood pressure), high cholesterol, high blood sugar, diabetes or other conditions that put you at greater risk, work with your doctor to manage these conditions. Make sure to take your medications as your doctor prescribes.

  6. Brush/floss your teeth. Brushing and flossing daily may just benefit your heart, too. More research is needed to study the connection between oral and heart health, but some studies show that those with gum disease often have the same risk factors for heart disease. Don’t forget to get a new toothbrush every three months.

  7. Sleep well. Most adults should get at least seven hours of sleep per night on a regular basis. Getting less than this amount is associated with an increased risk for heart disease. Also, untreated sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke. Learn how sleep affects your heart. If you think you may have a sleep disorder, talk to your doctor about getting a sleep study.

  8. Manage stress. Everyone has tons of stress nowadays, which is exacerbated by the global pandemic. Chronic stress can cause the heart to work harder. Also, some people drink, smoke, overeat or partake in other unhealthy activities to cope with stress. Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as relaxation techniques, mindfulness and physical activity.

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