Heart disease continues to be the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. One in four deaths, according to the CDC, is linked to heart related conditions. February is National Heart Awareness Month. It is a time every year when heart health organizations dedicate additional resources and efforts toward educating the public on the risk factors and what can be done to minimize them. Many of the leading causes of heart disease are considered to be controllable risk factors.
8 Tips for Developing a Heart Smart Lifestyle
First, it is important to understand that there are controllable and uncontrollable factors that put you at risk for heart disease.
There are four primary risk factors for heart disease that can’t be controlled. According to the experts at WebMD those include:
- Race: African Americans, American Indians, and Mexican Americans are more likely to have heart disease than Caucasians.
- Gender: Men are at greater risk for heart disease.
- Age: The older you are, the higher your risk.
- Family History: Having immediate relatives who have heart disease increases your risk. That includes parents, grandparents, and siblings.
Many things that put you at greater risk for heart disease, however, are controllable. Here are some steps you can take to cut your risk:
1. Halt the Salt: Reducing your intake of salt and sodium can cut your risk for heart disease and stroke. Sodium Reduction Tips from the CDC can help you find ways to do that.
2. Go Green: A plant based diet consisting of fruits and vegetables can help cut your risk. If you aren’t quite sure how many you should be eating each day, this fruit and vegetable calculator will help. It uses your age and activity level to make that determination.
3. Kick the Habit: If you are a smoker or use smokeless tobacco, kicking the habit is the very best step you can take to cut your risk. It is the leading preventable cause of heart disease.
4. Work It Off: Getting 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week also helps decrease your risk for heart disease. In addition to helping you look and feel better, it also helps with weight management.
5. Say “Om”: Practicing meditation for even 5 – 10 minutes each day can help lower your blood pressure and reduce the odds for developing cardiac related problems. It can also be a great stress reliever for weary caregivers.
6. Know Your Numbers: High cholesterol is another leading but preventable cause of heart disease. Make sure you speak with your primary care physician about checking your cholesterol if you haven’t. The American Heart Association recommends having it checked every five years and more often if it is high.
7. Limit Alcohol: Consuming too many alcoholic beverages can lead to an increase in blood pressure and often times weight gain. Try to limit alcohol consumption to one or two glasses a few times a week.
8. Control Stress: Finding a hobby that also has therapeutic benefits can reduce caregiving stress. Decreasing anxiety and stress can help you lower your risk for heart disease. Suggestions to consider include Pilates, yoga, gardening, bird watching and swimming.
The American Heart Association is encouraging people to Take the Pledge to cut their intake of salt and lower their risk for heart disease. When you sign up and take the pledge, you will receive tips and resources to help you protect your heart.