Preventing all cardiovascular diseases means making smart choices now that will pay off for the rest of your life.
Lack of exercise, a poor diet, and other bad habits, can take their toll over the years. Anyone at any age can benefit from simple steps to keep their heart healthy during each decade of life.
No matter what your age, everyone can benefit from a healthy diet and physical activity.
The food you eat can decrease your risk of heart disease. Choose foods low in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars and sweeteners. As part of a healthy diet, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, fiber–rich whole grains, fish (preferably oily fish -- at least twice per week), nuts, legumes and seeds. Also try eating some meals without meat. Select fat-free and low-fat dairy products and lean meats and poultry (skinless). Limit sugar-sweetened beverages.
You can slowly work up to at least 2½ hours (150 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (like brisk walking) every week or an hour and 15 minutes (75 minutes) of vigorous intensity aerobic physical activity (such as jogging or running) or a combination of both, every week. Additionally, on two or more days a week, you need muscle-strengthening activities that work on all major muscle groups (legs, hips, back, abdomen, chest shoulders and arms).
If you picked up smoking as a teen, it’s time to quit it. Even exposure to secondhand smoke poses a serious health hazard. Non-smokers are up to 30 percent more likely to develop heart disease or lung cancer from secondhand smoke exposure at home or work, according to a U.S. Surgeon General report.
Juggling family and career leaves many adults with little time to worry about their hearts.
Create and sustain heart-healthy habits in your kids and you’ll reap the benefits too. Spend less time on the couch and more time on the move. Explore a nearby park on foot or bike. Shoot some hoops or walk the dog. Plant a vegetable and fruit garden together in the yard, and invite your kids into the kitchen to help cook.
Having a relative with heart disease increases your risk, especially if the relative is a parent or sibling. That means you need to focus on risk factors you can control by maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, not smoking and eating right. Also, keep your doctor informed about any heart problems you learn about in your family.
Long-term stress causes an increase in heart rate and blood pressure that may damage the artery walls. Learning stress management techniques benefits your body and your quality of life. Try deep breathing exercises and find time each day to do something you enjoy.
In addition to blood pressure checks and other heart-health screenings, you should have a fasting blood glucose test by the time you’re 45. This first test serves as a baseline for future tests, which you should have every three years. Testing may be done earlier or more often if you are overweight, diabetic or at risk for becoming diabetic.
Listen to your sleeping partner’s complaints about your snoring. One in five adults has at least mild sleep apnea, a condition that causes pauses in breathing during sleep. If not properly treated, sleep apnea can contribute to high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke.
With age comes an increased risk for heart disease. Your blood pressure, cholesterol and other heart-related numbers tend to rise. Watching your numbers closely and managing any health problems that arise — along with the requisite healthy eating and exercise — can help you live longer and better.
Starting in your 60s, an ankle-brachial index test should be done every one to two years as part of a physical exam. The test assesses the pulses in the feet to help diagnose peripheral artery disease. (PAD), a lesser-known cardiovascular disease in which plaque builds up in the leg arteries.
Your body burns fewer calories as you get older. Excess weight causes your heart to work harder and increases the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. Exercising regularly and eating smaller portions of nutrient-rich foods may help you maintain a healthy weight.
Knowing when you’re having a heart attack or stroke means you’re more likely to get immediate help. Quick treatment can save your life and prevent serious disability.
Strategies to prevent heart disease:
1. Don't smoke or use tobacco.
2. Exercise for 30 minutes on most days of the week.
3. Eat a heart-healthy diet.
4. Maintain a healthy weight.
5. Get enough quality sleep.
6. Get regular health screenings.
Image courtesy: Getty Images
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