5 Ways to Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on August 18, 2015

5 Ways to Lower Your Risk of Heart Disease

Here are the five key lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of heart disease.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in
the U.S. What can you do to reduce your risk?

Heart disease is more of an umbrella term describing a host of heart conditions ranging from coronary artery disease to arrhythmias and more. While it comes in many forms, one thing many types of heart disease have in common is that they can be prevented through healthy lifestyle choices.

Despite that, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists heart disease as the leading cause of death in the U.S., killing more than 600,000 people every year.

While some forms of heart disease, like congenital heart defects, may be unavoidable, new research shows that about half of the heart disease deaths in the U.S. could be prevented through key lifestyle changes. The study reported that four out of five Americans had at least one risk factor for heart disease that they could take control of.

Here are the five key lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of heart disease.

Quit Smoking

Roughly one out of five deaths from heart disease is directly related to smoking. And smokers are two to four times more likely to get heart disease than nonsmokers. When you smoke, nicotine reduces how much oxygen your heart gets, raises your blood pressure, speeds up your heart rate, damages the insides of your blood vessels, and increases the risk of blood clots. All of those are risk factors for heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes.

Not only does quitting decrease your risk of heart disease and blood pressure, but it will also lower your risk of lung cancer and other types of cancer, as well as other serious health conditions.

Keep Blood Pressure, Cholesterol and Blood Sugar Under Control

These are just three of the “health numbers” you should know because they all have an impact on your heart. High blood pressure, or the more severe hypertension, makes your heart work harder, accelerates plaque build-up in your arteries, and creates imbalances between the supply and demand of oxygen to and from your heart. High blood pressure is a leading cause of heart failure, stroke and even kidney disease.

When it comes to your blood sugar levels, you may automatically associate it as a diabetes risk factor. But, high blood sugar and diabetes are both risk factors for heart disease – elevated blood sugar requires your body to create more insulin, which speeds the development of plaque in your arteries. This increases the risk for heart attack and stroke.

Having high LDL cholesterol levels- that’s the “bad” cholesterol – is yet another heart disease risk factor. LDL cholesterol is considered the “basic building block” of plaque in arteries.

Keeping all of these numbers low will, in turn, also keep your risk of heart disease low.

Lose Weight

Quite simply, the heavier you are the higher your risk of heart disease. In general, excess weight often means higher cholesterol and triglyceride levels and the higher your level of blood fats, the greater the risk of developing a clot large enough to block blood flow to your heart. In addition, carrying extra weight may also weaken your heart’s ability to pump blood, which could lead to heart failure.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Consuming a diet high in sodium, saturated and trans fats contribute to being overweight, obese and an elevated risk of heart disease. Eating excess sodium lends itself to high blood pressure. And consuming trans-fat and too much saturated fat can raise cholesterol levels in your blood.

For a lower risk of heart disease, follow a diet that is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, nuts, poultry and lean cuts of meat.

Exercise Regularly

Similar to a healthy diet, getting exercise on a regular basis can help you manage your blood pressure, cholesterol and weight – all factoring into your risk of heart disease. Aerobic exercise is particularly important. As an added bonus, exercise can improve your mood and energy levels, making you feel great all around.

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