How to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease With Healthy Lifestyle Choices

How to reduce your risk of heart disease with healthy lifestyle choices

If you want to avoid heart disease, you need to take steps to improve your health. You can do this by making a few healthy lifestyle choices.

Some risk factors are inherited and can’t be changed, but other risk factors can be changed or managed with medicine and lifestyle changes. These include smoking, high cholesterol and blood pressure.

1. Eat a Healthy Diet

Eating a healthy diet is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of heart disease. It can help you maintain a healthy weight, manage your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and control your blood sugar.

Your diet should be a balanced mix of fruits, vegetables, fibre-rich whole grains, fish (preferably oily fish-at least twice a week), nuts, legumes and seeds. Limit saturated fats – including those found in meat, cheese and butter – as these increase your levels of bad cholesterol.

You can choose lower-fat versions of dairy foods, fortified with calcium and other vitamins and minerals, or try a plant-based alternative. If you do eat meat, select lean cuts and avoid excessively high-fat sauces or oils.

It is also important to reduce the amount of salt you eat. Too much salt can raise your blood pressure, so try to stay below 6g (0.2oz) per day.

2. Get Regular Exercise

Regular exercise, particularly aerobic activity, improves your heart health. This is because it strengthens your heart and makes it work more efficiently.

It also increases your blood flow, which lowers your risk for coronary heart disease. It also reduces your risk of high blood pressure and raises HDL, or “good” cholesterol levels in your blood.

If you have diabetes, exercising can help control your blood sugar level.

The best way to get the most benefits from exercise is to start slowly and build up your fitness over time. If you’re not sure what exercises will be right for you, ask your doctor or a trainer to guide you through the process.

Your doctor can also help you determine how much exercise you should do each day and recommend an appropriate program for your age, medical history and other factors. For example, if you are overweight or have had an injury, your provider may recommend starting with less intense exercise first and working up to more intensive workouts as your condition improves.

The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity or a combination of both each week. You should also do muscle-strengthening exercises on two or more days a week.

3. Quit Smoking

If you’re serious about reducing your risk of heart disease, quitting smoking is one of the most important steps you can take. It can improve your health within days and reduce your risk of heart disease by half over the next year.

Smoking is harmful for the heart and other parts of your body, including the lungs. The smoke from cigarettes contains thousands of chemicals that can damage blood vessels and your heart.

Carbon monoxide, a poisonous gas in tobacco smoke, steals oxygen from your red blood cells and can prevent it from reaching your organs. It also makes artery walls hard and stiff, which increases your risk of a heart attack.

When you quit smoking, your risk of a heart attack decreases within 20 minutes. And within 12 hours, your carbon monoxide levels return to normal, increasing your blood’s oxygen supply.

In the first few weeks of quitting, you may experience some mild cravings. These cravings will pass and can be overcome with the help of a nicotine replacement product or other medications.

If you’re still having trouble quitting, talk with a healthcare provider about ways to support you. They can offer advice on medications, counseling and other methods to help you stop smoking.

4. Manage Your Blood Pressure

Managing your blood pressure is one of the best ways to reduce your risk of heart disease. You can do this by eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and taking medicine as directed by your doctor.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is a leading cause of heart disease, stroke and kidney failure. It occurs in about a third of the adult population worldwide.

When your blood pressure is too high, it damages the walls of your arteries, making it harder for your heart to pump enough blood to your body and brain. Your blood pressure reading has two numbers, a top number (systolic) and a bottom number (diastolic).

To lower your risk of high blood pressure, watch your salt intake. This means limiting processed foods, eating more fresh or frozen whole foods instead of canned goods, and using spices to flavor your food rather than salt.

You can also cut down on the amount of alcohol you drink, which is known to raise your blood pressure. It can also be helpful to have support from family members and friends who encourage you to make the right choices and take your health seriously.

Finally, get plenty of exercise. A moderate-intensity workout (like brisk walking) can help you lose weight and lower your blood pressure, says Dr. Laffin.

5. Manage Your Cholesterol

Cholesterol is a fatty substance that helps your cells form protective layers, and it also supports your body’s production of certain hormones. It also helps your liver make bile, which is needed to digest food.

High cholesterol can be caused by unhealthy eating habits, lack of exercise, obesity, smoking and alcohol. It can also be inherited (familial hypercholesterolemia).

When cholesterol levels are too high, they can clog arteries and increase your risk of heart disease and stroke. The best way to reduce your risk is with healthy lifestyle choices, including a heart-healthy diet, regular physical activity and weight management.

A healthy balance between LDL (bad) and HDL (good) cholesterol is essential for your heart’s health. A total cholesterol level less than 200 is ideal, but this depends on your personal risk for heart disease.

It’s important to avoid foods that contain saturated and trans fats, which raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol. These bad fats are found in meat, dairy products, tropical oils, fried foods, and processed or packaged foods.

Using a low-fat diet and avoiding fried or processed foods is the most important step you can take to reduce your cholesterol levels. Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is also beneficial.

6. Manage Your Diabetes

You can reduce your risk of heart disease by managing diabetes and other factors. Talk to your health care team about how to keep your blood sugar and triglycerides in the right range for you.

You may need to take more than one medication and change your eating plan to manage your diabetes. Work with your doctor to determine which medications you need, when you need to change them, and how much to take.

Eating a balanced diet that includes carbohydrates, fats and protein can help you control your blood glucose and cholesterol levels. Choose foods low in saturated and trans fats and high in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.

Exercise can help you feel better, reduce stress and improve your sensitivity to insulin. It also can help you control your weight and lower your risk of heart disease and other complications.

A healthy diet can also help you lose weight and control your diabetes. Eat a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats.

Be sure to eat three meals a day and try to space them out evenly. Avoid processed foods, which have a higher glycemic index and may cause your blood sugar to rise too quickly.

7. Manage Your Weight

When it comes to reducing your risk of heart disease, weight management is an important factor. It involves a healthy diet and physical activity that helps you reach and maintain an ideal body weight.

The key is to be realistic with yourself and make gradual changes that are easy to integrate into your lifestyle. Studies show that the longer you can stay committed to making changes, the more likely it will be that you can keep them off for the long run.

To manage your weight, focus on eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables. Try to limit foods high in fat, sugar and sodium. Instead, eat more whole grains, low-fat dairy products, fish and poultry.

Eating a balanced diet can also help you control other risk factors for heart disease, including cholesterol levels and blood pressure. Choose foods that are rich in nutrients, such as fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

In addition to your diet, you can also reduce your heart disease risk by increasing your daily amount of physical activity. Adults should aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise five days a week. Alternatively, you can combine several shorter chunks of 10 to 15 minutes each day.

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