By now we’re all aware that there are a lot of genetic factors that predispose some people to heart disease. Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do about our genetics. Often family history, gender, and even our ethnicity can put us at more risk. But, potential risk and actual heart disease are very different things. Even people who would appear to have a higher risk due to some of the aforementioned factors can lead very healthy lives by making a few simple adjustments.
We’ve compiled a list of the top six things that you can do right now to prevent yourself from falling victim to heart disease. It is unlikely that you will be surprised by any of these items, but we hope this acts as a reminder that you can make a big impact in your own life by implementing just a few simple changes.
1. Change Your Diet
Rarely are our patients surprised when we tell them they need to develop better eating habits. For the most part, we all know the basics when it comes to a healthy diet. More fruits and vegetables, less processed foods, lower your sodium. Do all of these catchphrases sound familiar to you? However as familiar as we are with these things in concept it can be difficult to transition ourselves from one way of living to another. If there’s one single thing that you can start doing today to make a significant change in your life it would be to manage diet.
2. Start an Exercise Regimen
Beginning an exercise routine is critically important to your cardiovascular health. Often patients are overwhelmed with the idea of exercise. Either they’re out of the habit, they don’t have much experience, or in some cases, their bodies aren’t physically healthy enough for strenuous exercise. But we think you’re getting ahead of yourself. If you’ve had a relatively inactive lifestyle exercise may look like walking around the block. In fact, low impact exercises like walking, bike riding, and swimming are excellent ways to improve your cardiovascular health. So don’t let the idea of high-intensity exercise or group sports keep you from getting your heart rate up, moving your body, and fighting against heart disease. That said, before you start any new exercise regimen, speak with your doctor to make sure you start your new habits in a safe and manageable way. This brings us to the next point.
3. See a Cardiologist
If you have any family history of heart disease we urge you to talk to your doctor today. There are so many small, incremental changes that you can make in your life to prevent heart damage, but it will only work if your doctor knows your risk and is prepared to support you. If you don’t currently have a cardiologist, we encourage you to call our office as soon as possible.
4. Lower Your Stress
Elevated levels of stress are a trigger for cardiovascular trouble. If you have ongoing and unmanageable stress in your life you are more likely to also end up with heart disease. Lowering your stress may seem impossible if you have a high-pressure job or a gaggle of children, but there are some simple things you can do to teach yourself how to better manage stress. First, eliminate stress from your life wherever possible. But when you can’t eliminate stress, adopt tools like a meditation that will help you control stress. For many people exercise is the best stress control method.
5. Develop Healthy Habits
You may love to smoke a pack a day, or drink a bottle of wine at dinner, but neither of those things loves you back. Habits like drinking and smoking are also tools that people use to minimize or deal with their stress, but they are very dangerous and can lead to heart disease. Of course, drinking and smoking are not the only two habits that may increase your risk of heart disease. Your daily caramel Frappuccino, your late-night social media scrolling, and your daily fast-food lunches are also contributing to your decreased heart health. Habits are the things that you do in your life without realizing it, and they can be changed. Sit down and write out all of the things you do each day. You may be surprised to see that you were walking by Carol’s desk 10 times a day to grab a single piece of chocolate. Small habits like that can really add up.
6. Get Some Shut Eye
This is going to be your favorite heart disease prevention hack. You need more sleep! The time we spend sleeping at night is restorative to our bodies. It helps lower our blood pressure, it pumps healthy hormones through our systems, and it gives us the energy to start the next day on the right foot. If you are at risk for heart disease there is nothing easier than going to bed a little bit earlier to make sure you get your eight hours.
You may be thinking, what if I already have heart disease? Well, your diagnosis does not have to be a death sentence. Even if you’ve never taken time in your life to focus on the prevention of heart disease there is no time like the present. Speak with your doctor, and involve your loved ones in developing some of these healthy habits. If you’ve never exercised in your life it may be difficult for you to start, but with the help of a friend, you can add a daily walk into your routine. And if you’ve never learned to cook healthy foods you might attend a cooking class for the first time. Heart disease doesn’t have to get the best of you with just a few small lifestyle changes you can show it who’s boss.
For more information about heart disease or to speak to a cardiologist about your risk for heart disease, contact us today.