According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, is the leading cause of death in the world with more than 17 million deaths each year.
Over the average lifetime, the heart beats about 2.5 billion times working nonstop to pump millions of gallons of blood throughout our body. With each beat, oxygen, fuel, hormones, various compounds and a host of essential cells make their way to different parts of our body.
It’s a marvelous organ given its constant workload, but with poor diet and lack of exercise, smoking, infection, or unlucky genes, it can falter.
And if the heart stops, essential functions fail and death can come almost instantly. Fortunately, health professionals check our hearts at every visit. Even though there are no self-checks for heart disease, there are many things we can do to keep hearts healthy. Here are some tips to maintain your healthy heart!
Monitor your blood pressure! High blood pressure, called hypertension, increases the risk of developing heart disease. It can lead to stroke, heart attack, or heart failure. Getting your blood pressure checked regularly is essential. If the pressure is too high, the force can damage artery walls and create scar tissue, making it difficult for blood and oxygen to get to and from the heart. Changing your diet and lifestyle can control the blood pressure as well as prescribed medications. Avoid excessive alcohol or coffee consumption, smoking, and a high salt intake. Happily, with proper diagnosis and treatment, high blood pressure can be controlled and many of its complications can be reversed.
Watch your weight! Being overweight raises your risk of heart disease! Obesity is one of the major risk factors of coronary heart disease which can lead to a heart attack. Obesity lowers your HDL (good cholesterol) which has been linked to lower heart disease and stroke. Excess weight, especially in your waist area can cause serious health problems.
Eat a healthy diet! Increase your intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains and cut down on certain fats – saturated fats are found in meat and full-fat dairy products. They can increase your “bad” cholesterol, raising risk for heart disease. Trans fats should be completely eliminated, as they not only increase your “bad” cholesterol but lowers your “good” cholesterol. Cholesterol levels should be checked regularly.
Get moving! Being sedentary can lead to heart disease and increased risk of diabetes. Try to be active for at least 30 minutes every day with some light to moderate exercise. This can improve your heart health, cholesterol, and weight.
Manage your stress! Learn how to relax and manage stress and it can greatly improve your emotional and physical health and lower high blood pressure. By enjoying your life more, you can reduce stress significantly. Reserve some ‘you’ time to relax by listening to music, focusing on something calm or peaceful, and meditating.
A healthy lifestyle, the sooner started the better, goes a long way to preventing cardiovascular disease. Take control of your heart health through fitness, nutrition, personal growth, and education.