7 Ways to Improve Your Heart Health - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on February 09, 2016

7 Ways to Improve Your Heart Health

Here are seven things you can do to combat your risk of heart disease.

You can take charge of many of the
contributing factors to heart disease.

Cardiovascular disease is scary – it describes conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels that can cause a heart attack, chest pain or stroke. It’s the leading cause of death in the U.S.

While you can’t control your family history in terms of your risk of heart disease, there are many other factors that play a role in developing the condition that you can take charge of.

Here are seven things you can do to combat your risk of heart disease.

1. Control Your Cholesterol

Cholesterol isn’t a bad thing…unless it’s too high. When your cholesterol is too high, it contributes to plaque buildup in your arteries, which can clog them and lead to heart disease and stroke. Managing your cholesterol level through a healthy diet and potentially with medications is the best way to keep your arteries clear of blockages.

2. Manage Your Blood Pressure

Your blood pressure is the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. High blood pressure is one of the major risk factors for heart disease and stroke – if your blood pressure is high, it can damage and weaken your arteries. When you manage your blood pressure and keep it within a healthy range, you reduce the strain on your arteries, heart and kidneys.

3. Reduce Your Blood Sugar

Diabetes – elevated blood glucose (sugar) levels – is another one of the major risk factors for heart disease. High levels of blood sugar over time can damage your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves. Anyone with diabetes, prediabetes or a family history of diabetes should monitor and manage their blood sugar in order to reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

4. Be Active

Making time every day for physical activity can prevent heart disease at any age. The American Heart Association recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. Since physical activity is anything that makes you move your body and burn calories, you don’t need to join a gym…you simply need to move, whether it’s walking, jogging, climbing stairs, biking - whatever movement you get the most enjoyment out of.

Exercise and physical activity are credited with helping you control your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar, in addition to other heart disease risk factors.

5. Eat a Healthy Diet

A healthy diet, especially combined with physical activity, is one of your best tools to combat heart disease. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, lean protein and low in sodium, added sugars and saturated fat can help you control your blood sugar, cholesterol and weight.

6. Lose Excess Weight

Carrying excess weight puts added stress on your heart, lungs, blood vessels, joints and bones. Being overweight or obese means your heart has to work that much harder to supply your body with oxygen-rich blood. Obesity can raise cholesterol and triglyceride levels, lower “good” HDL cholesterol, increase blood pressure, and increase the risk of developing diabetes. However, shedding excess weight reduces the burden on your heart and other systems, thus lowering your risk of heart disease and many other serious health conditions.

7. Stop Smoking

Smoking cigarettes increases the risk of heart disease – smoking increases blood pressure and the tendency for blood to clot while decreasing exercise tolerance. When smoking is combined with other heart disease risk factors, it greatly increases the risk of developing the condition. If you smoke, quitting is the best thing you can do to reduce your heart disease risk and improve your overall health.

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