Heart disease has developed quite the reputation, but not for anything good of course. When you think of heart disease, what comes to mind? That it’s the number one killer of both men and women or maybe that it’s something that you only have to worry about when you’re older.
Despite all of its negative qualities, there is one good thing about heart disease—you actually have the power prevent it. “Before you assume that it’s too late, or that you’re doomed to have heart disease, evidence has shown that healthy lifestyle changes at any stage of life can help to reverse and prevent damage,” says Jim John, MD, an affiliated cardiologist with Gwinnett Consultants in Cardiology.
1. Don’t Overlook the Small Stuff
When it comes to the biggest risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, extra weight and lack of exercise, most of these are the result of small, everyday choices that add up.
The good news is making life style changes to be more heart healthy doesn’t mean you have to dramatically change everything. It means starting to make small choices that add up in a big way over time. “In fact, major lifestyle changes, especially health fads, rarely have a lasting impact as they invariably become hard to maintain and people fall off the wagon,” says Dr. John. “Instead, I encourage my patients to make small changes that accumulate in big ways.”
2. Find your healthy weight.
There is certainly no one-size-fits-all when it comes to shape, size or weight. Despite the common notion that a healthy weight can only be measured by a scale, there are many other factors to consider. By working with your doctor, you can determine what a healthy weight is for your unique body type, your age and your overall health.
It’s important to note, though, that if you are overweight; losing just 10 percent of your body weight will have a tremendous impact on your heart health. “You can expect your blood pressure and cholesterol levels to be lower, as well as your risk for clots and heart disease to be much less,” explains Dr. John.
3. Eat good, feel better.
Just because a food is good for you, doesn’t mean it has to taste bad. There are plenty of delicious ways to enjoy getting key nutrients for your heart. By incorporating more fresh fruits, veggies and lean protein, you’ll stock up on heart-healthy nutrients like:
· Omega 3 Fatty Acids (found in fresh fish, especially salmon and sardines)
· Folate (found in green, leafy veggies like spinach, kale and romaine lettuce)
· Magnesium (found in walnuts and spinach)
· Polyphenols (found in blueberries, raspberries and strawberries)
· Reservatrol (found in dark chocolate and red wine)
Keep in mind, though, that cutting out unhealthy foods is just as important as adding in nutritious ones. “Foods that are high in fat, sodium and sugar all take a toll on heart health,” says Dr. John. So, if one of your favorite weekly meals is a fast-food burger, you’re likely consuming between 85-175 milligrams of cholesterol in one sitting (the recommended daily amount is only 200-300 milligrams).
However, by cutting out that one weekly burger for a month, you’ll save your heart from nearly 700 milligrams of cholesterol. Just think about what that would add up to over the course of a year.
4. Work your body.
Whether you realize it or not, your body loves activity. From lower levels of stress and improved muscle tone to weight loss and heart health, exercise is essential. However, to get the heart-healthy benefits of exercise, you’ll need to get at least 30 minutes a day or 90 minutes a week of exercise that raises your heart rate.
Regular exercise that raises your heart rate not only helps to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol, it can actually change the way your heart works. “Overtime, your left ventricle will adapt to provide more blood per burst, which will lower your resting heart rate,” explains Dr. John, “It will also stimulate new blood vessels to form, which promotes better circulation.”
5.Take time off.
Feeling stressed, anxious and tired has become a part of the daily reality for a majority of people. These feelings not only take a toll on mental health, they also have a surprising impact on physical health, too. Over time, stress can increase cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. It can even promote the buildup of plaque in arteries throughout the body.
With such a tremendous physical impact, there is only one solution when it comes to stress—relaxation. Whether it’s reading, spending time in nature, getting a massage or taking a vacation, you need to find a way to relieve and release your stress. Your heart will thank you for it.
Your heart health is our top priority. When it comes to lasting heart health, preventative care and customized treatment are essential. That’s why GMC offers convenient access to knowledgeable and experienced heart specialists who utilize the latest technology and advanced diagnostic and treatment options. Not to mention the extensive services, resources and experts of Gwinnett Medical Center that support every step of your care.