5 tips to help prevent heart disease
February is American Heart Month, and the Y is in the business of preventing the leading cause of death – heart disease. Protect your heart with these 5 medication-free steps.
1. No smoking
Smoking or using tobacco is one of the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease. Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels, leading to narrowing of the arteries. Even so-called “social smoking” — smoking only while at a bar or restaurant with friends — is dangerous and increases the risk of heart disease. The good news, though, is that when you quit smoking, your risk of heart disease drops within just one year.
2. 30 minutes a day, keeps the Dr. away
Getting some regular, daily exercise can reduce your risk of fatal heart disease. And when you combine physical activity with other lifestyle measures, such as maintaining a healthy weight, the payoff is even greater. Try getting at lease 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense exercise most days of the week.
- Strength in numbers. Studies show that people involved in group exercise stick with it longer. See what group exercise classes we offer.
- Become a green thumb. Gardening gets you outside, and you get the reward of eating healthy.
- Clean it up. Don’t dread mopping the floors or vacuuming. Just think of it as a little exercise.
3. Food Matters
Eat foods that are low in fat, cholesterol and salt. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products can help protect your heart. Beans, other low-fat sources of protein and certain types of fish also can reduce your risk of heart disease.
Learn your fats:
- Read the fine print. Look for the term “partially hydrogenated” to avoid trans fat.
- Don’t eat through a window. Deep-fried fast foods are a source of trans fat.
- Add Omega-3. This type of polyunsaturated fat may decrease your risk of a heart attack.
4. Step on the scales
As you put on weight as an adult, your weight gain is mostly fat rather than muscle. This excess weight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of heart disease.
- Know your numbers. Calculate your Body Mass Index. Numbers 25 or higher have an increased risk of heart disease.
- What’s overweight? Men are considered overweight if their waist measurement is greater than 40 inches, and for women that number is 35.
- Start small. Even a 10% weight loss can decrease your blood pressure.
5. Get it checked
You won’t know where to start if you don’t get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked. Regular screening can tell you what your numbers are and whether you need to take action.
- Blood Pressure. 120/80 is optimal blood pressure.
- Cholesterol. Once every 5 years it should be measured.
- Diabetes screening. First testing is recommended around ages 30 – 45. Learn about our Diabetes Prevention Program.