Did you now that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women and men? In fact, it accounts for more deaths than the next five causes of death combined! Scary, huh?
Well, fortunately there are steps you can take to lower your risk of developing heart disease, and even reduce the severity of a current condition you may or may not be aware of. Believe it or not, a few simple dietary and lifestyle changes can make all the difference. Let’s take a look at what they are.
1. Incorporate a Healthy Heart Diet.
There are a number of foods you should try to cut back on or eliminate altogether, as well as some you should try to incorporate as much as possible. Changing your eating habits can have a significant effect on your cardiovascular and overall health.
Try to avoid trans fats and hydrogenated oils, present in many processed and refined foods. Margarine, spreads, fried food and fast food all contain these harmful chemically-altered fats and oils. Also try to reduce your intake of sugar and carbohydrates. Both of these stimulate the production of triglycerides (fat) in the body, a major indicator of heart disease risk.
You should try to have more fiber, fruits and vegetables, especially green, leafy vegetables and antioxidant-packed fruit. Also, use extra virgin olive oil in your cooking and fresh garlic…both are known to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol. Lastly, try to eat more cold water fish, such as salmon or cod, as they contain two of the most important Omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA.
2. Exercise Regularly
This is a no-brainer. We all know that exercise is beneficial. You can prevent as well as reverse heart problems with regular exercise. According to the American Heart Association, we should all include at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise three to four days a week. If you think about it, that’s not too much of a commitment.
Ideally, you should try to combine aerobic with anaerobic exercises for maximum effect. Aerobic exercises, such as running, swimming, biking, etc. stimulate the production of oxygen. They make your heart rate increase for an extended period of time. This means more blood is circulating, providing this oxygen to your cells and tissues. Anaerobic exercise entails short-lived, intense bursts such as weight lifting and sprinting. This will improve your muscle strength and flexibility.
The benefits of regular exercise are significant. In addition to improving cardiovascular efficiency and function, it will boost your immune system, increase your energy and metabolism, improve conditioning and relieve stress and tension. That’s why it’s so important to incorporate a regular exercise routine.
3. Lead a Healthy Lifestyle
Try to avoid habits or practices that can increase your risk of heart disease. If you smoke, cut back or quit altogether. Second-hand smoke can also cause problems. Limit your alcohol intake. Excessive alcohol can deplete your body’s supply of vitamins and other essential nutrients, which can in turn cause cardiovascular damage. Same is true of drugs and other toxins. Keep your weight in check…obesity is a leading cause of heart disease. Lastly, try to reduce stress and anxiety as much as possible. An overly stressed body is an unhealthy body.
4. Keep Tabs On The Four Major Blood Indicators of Heart Disease Risk
Despite what many believe, high cholesterol is not the only important indicator of heart disease risk. There are other indicators that are just as important. Let’s start with cholesterol since that’s the one everyone knows about.
Cholesterol. Put simply, you want your LDL (bad cholesterol) levels as low as possible and your HDL (good cholesterol) as high as possible. HDL actually travels through your bloodstream collecting all the LDL to be reprocessed by your liver. Optimal levels of total cholesterol are between 180 and 220 mg/dL, LDL under 100 mg/dL and HDL over 50 mg/dL
Triglycerides. High levels of triglycerides (fatty deposits) are a precursor to coronary blockage, as they thicken the blood. Having high cholesterol AND high triglycerides increases your risk of heart disease exponentially.
Homocysteine. This is an abnormal protein caused by a lack of certain nutrients in the diet, especially B vitamins. Homocysteine in high concentrations can cause serious damage to your arteries.
C-Reactive Protein. CRPs are indicators of inflammation in the blood, a very accurate predictor of future heart issues. High CRP levels may also double your risk of stroke.
So in addition to having your cholesterol checked, have your triglyceride, homocysteine and CRP levels checked as well. The four indicators together will give you a much clearer picture of your heart disease risk.
5. Include Healthy Heart Nutrients
We’d like to think that we can get all of the nutrients we need from our diets…that’s if we are actually following a heart healthy diet, which many of us unfortunately don’t. But even if you follow the strictest of diets, due to the way food is processed and handled, much of what we eat is depleted, if not altogether devoid, of essential nutrients.
That’s why supplementing the nutrients your heart and body need to function optimally makes sense. You might want to consider a high quality fish oil supplement, as fish you buy in the store can be contaminated or lacking in Omega 3’s due to the way it was handled. You may want to consider a multivitamin to make sure you’re getting the all-important B vitamins, essential to heart health, as well as antioxidants vitamin C and E. If you have high cholesterol or other risk indicators, supplements such as green tea, policosanol and CoQ10 can be beneficial. There are a host of important amino acids, enzymes, minerals and other nutrients that are crucial for proper heart function that may be missing from your diet.
So there you have it…5 ways to lower your risk of heart disease. Try to incorporate as many of them as possible…but even one can make a difference!
This article is exclusively written by Healthy Heart Guide for Bizymoms.com
“Healthy Heart Guide was created to educate people about the leading cause of death in men and women, cardiovascular disease. We are always researching the latest developments in heart care to learn about how we can improve our heart health, and lower our risks of getting heart disease.” - Healthy Heart Guide
For more information and resources please visit the Healthy Heart Guide website.