Living a heart-healthy lifestyle is essential in reducing the risk of developing heart disease. To promote a healthy heart, consider incorporating the following 10 habits into your life:
Eating healthy food
Eating a healthy diet can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. High-fat content from food builds up in the walls of the blood vessels, causing atherosclerosis and a narrowing of the vessels. Atherosclerosis leads to insufficient blood flow to the heart, potentially resulting in angina. To reduce the risks of these conditions, choose low-sodium, reduced-fat, and fiber-rich foods, and consider reducing meat consumption.
Regular exercise helps to reduce fats in the bloodstream and lowers the amount of triglycerides in the body. Also, it contributes to making the heart muscles stronger and helps the heart to pump blood more efficiently to the lungs and other body tissues, allowing for more oxygen to be circulated throughout the body. Furthermore, exercise helps widen blood vessels, improves their ability to carry blood, and eliminates waste from the body more efficiently. Finally, exercise helps form good cholesterol, improving overall health and well-being.
Cigarette smoking is an unhealthy habit that is a leading cause of death in the United States, with one in every five fatalities stemming from related illnesses. Fortunately, this is preventable; however, smoking has numerous health implications for the body, including the heart and its functions.
Smoking can cause arteriosclerosis, a condition where the structure of the blood vessels hardens and narrows due to the building up of a waxy plaque, thus restricting blood flow. This can then lead to ischemic heart disease, which presents with symptoms like arrhythmias, heart failure, and heart attack.
Keep cholesterol in check
Cholesterol is an essential macromolecule necessary for forming cell membranes, hormone synthesis, Bile acid production, and vitamin D absorption. The body naturally produces its own cholesterol. However, dietary contributors such as animal products such as meat, eggs, and full-fat dairy can drastically increase levels.
To maintain healthy cholesterol levels, it is recommended to include polyunsaturated oils, oats, legumes, and saponin-containing foods (such as alfalfa sprouts and chickpeas) in your diet. In some cases, genetics play a role, and cholesterol levels may be difficult to manage with lifestyle changes. If this is the case, it is advised to seek medical advice and take prescribed medications to manage cholesterol levels effectively.
Keep blood pressure in check
Maintaining healthy blood pressure levels is essential for the well-being of your heart and blood vessels. Over time, prolonged hypertension can lead to damage and blockage of the arteries that transport blood to the heart, ultimately leading to a heart attack. Monitoring blood pressure is, therefore, a key factor in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system. You can do this through regular check-ups.
Keep blood sugar in check
It is important to maintain regular monitoring of blood sugar levels to protect cardiovascular health. Adopting a lifestyle and taking medications recommended by a doctor for diabetes can help keep blood sugar levels in check. It is equally imperative to be cognizant of the signs and symptoms of diabetes and to consider any potential high-risk factors. Controllable risk factors such as smoking, consuming alcohol, being overweight, elevated cholesterol, and a family history of the disorder can elevate the risk of heart disease in those with diabetes.
When the body is under stress, it produces a hormone called cortisol. Over time, high levels of cortisol cause an increase in blood sugar, blood pressure, triglycerides, and blood cholesterol. All these conditions are risk factors for heart disease. Therefore, to reduce the risk of heart disease, managing stress levels by engaging in activities such as exercise, mindfulness, and relaxation is important.
Taking alcohol in moderation
Consuming alcohol in moderation can positively impact your cardiovascular health. However, binge drinking or excessive alcohol consumption can damage your heart. Excessive drinking can weaken your heart muscles, resulting in cardiomyopathy, and upset your heart's regular rhythm causing arrhythmias and even heart attacks. Moreover, heavy drinking can increase your blood pressure and increase your risk of developing heart disease. Therefore, when considering alcohol consumption, it is essential to be mindful of your heart health.
Maintaining healthy weight
Being overweight is linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Excess body weight can lead to several health conditions, such as high cholesterol, diabetes, and hypertension, which are all risk factors for heart problems. Moreover, excessive weight can cause damage to the heart muscles. When the heart is overburdened by the body's demands, its structure and function weaken, possibly leading to heart failure.
Regular check-up with your healthcare provider
Regular medical check-ups and clinical tests can help identify potential heart issues at their earliest stages, making their treatment more manageable. For individuals under the age of 50 who are generally in good health, these should be conducted every three years. Those over 50 should seek medical check-ups annually.