10 Steps To Preventing Cardiovascular Disease

By:    Published: October 29, 2012

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Cardiovascular disease is a growing epidemic that is estimated to affect countless people throughout the world. However, there are things you can do to decrease your risk factors. By following the steps provided here, people can dramatically reduce their risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

1. Stop Smoking

Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Smoking has several physiological effects on the body including damaging heart and blood vessels, narrowing of arteries, decreased oxygen to tissues, increase in bad cholesterol, and causing blood clots because it makes the blood stickier. Quitting smoking will significantly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease within one year of quitting, but some of the benefits of quitting will be seen within days.

(If you’re looking for help to stop smoking, see Tips On How To Quit Smoking As Soon As Possible.)

2. Fiber

Fiber, such as the kind found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, plays an important role in keeping blood pressure low. Elevated blood pressure puts excess strain on the heart when pumping and can lead to serious, life threatening problems like heart attacks and stroke. The recommended daily amount of fiber varies based on sex and age, but is between 21 and 38 grams per day. A nutritionist can recommend the amount that is appropriate for a specific person.

3. Exercise

Exercise is essential for heart health as well as maintaining a healthy weight and muscle mass. With just 30 minutes of activity most days of the week, people can greatly reduce their risk of fatal heart disease. Conditioning the cardiovascular system to work more efficiently, and maintaining a healthy weight can reduce the chances of developing cardiovascular disease, which reduces the strain on the heart. Keep in mind that exercise is cumulative and things like housework and gardening count as physical activity.

(For more information on burning calories around the house, read Household Chores That Burn The Most Calories.)

4. Lean Protein

Protein is essential for healthy muscles, but certain proteins should be avoided because they are too high in fat. High fat proteins cause extra fat and cholesterol to be stored in the body, increasing body weight and raising bad cholesterol levels, both of which can cause cardiovascular disease. The best protein options are fish, skinless chicken breasts, egg whites, skim milk, beans and soy.

5. Supplements

Dietary supplements can play an important supporting role in preventing cardiovascular disease. Supplements alone are not enough to prevent cardiovascular disease, but when used together with the other steps on this list, they can be effective. Recommended supplements include Vitamins A, C, E, CoQ10, folic acid, beta-carotene, bioflavonoids, and selenium. There is some evidence that suggests that magnesium may be helpful as well.

6. Limit Fat And Cholesterol

Fat and cholesterol pose one of the biggest risks to the cardiovascular system. Trans fat, saturated fat and cholesterol can cause dangerous plaque to build up in the arteries causing blockages, a condition called atherosclerosis. If an artery becomes blocked, it can cause a heart attack or stroke, either by blocking the blood flow through the artery at the site of the initial blockage, or part of the plaque becoming dislodged and traveling to the heart or brain, causing blockages in smaller vessels.

Avoid solid forms of fat, such as shortening, lard or butter and opt instead for spreads made with yogurt or olive oil. Also, cook with vegetable oils that are higher in monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil. Coconut oil, though it is a vegetable oil, is high in saturated fat, but it is a different type of saturated fat than that found in animal based fats. There is some evidence that coconut oil is actually good for your health.

7. Reduce Stress

Stress has a number of effects on the body, and not all of them are completely understood. Stress does have a serious effect on the cardiovascular system, and if the stress continues for a long period of time, it can result in damage to blood vessels, encourage the blockage of arteries as excess cholesterol is released in response to stress, and raise blood pressure. There are a number of ways people can reduce stress in their lives, from meditation to exercise, but what is important is that stress is reduced to keep the natural stress response from causing damage to the cardiovascular system.

(For more ways to reduce stress, read 9 Stress Relieving Techniques For Daily Comfort.)

8. Fresh Fruits And Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are perhaps natures perfect foods. They are rich in vitamins and minerals, low in calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium and because they usually have a greater bulk than other foods, people can feel full without loading up on calories. And while many people take vitamin supplements, evidence suggests that there is a synergistic effect of the vitamins and minerals found in fruits and vegetables that is not found in supplements. In addition, the fiber that is often found in fruits and vegetables is good for the cardiovascular system, as mentioned above.

9. Good Dental Care

For years science has known of a link between dental health and cardiovascular health. The culprit is bacteria. The human mouth is full of bacteria, and good oral health keeps these bacteria in check. Poor dental health allows bacteria to grow unchecked and allow it to migrate to other areas of the body, including the cardiovascular system. While poor dental health alone is unlikely to cause heart disease, when combined with other risk factors, in can increase the risk of developing serious problems. Daily brushing and flossing and regular dental check-ups will virtually eliminate this risk.

10. Get A Check-Up

A regular health check-up is essential for catching cardiovascular problems early, allowing them to be treated more easily. It is recommended that adults get a medical check-up once per year and those with health problems should get a check-up more often. During this check-up the doctor should check blood pressure, as well as screen for high cholesterol and diabetes. Other tests may be recommended as well based on the individual person.

None of these tips are difficult to accomplish, and they can make a world of difference to overall health. Following these steps can go a long way to preventing cardiovascular disease, in addition to a whole host of other health problems, allowing people to live longer, healthier and happier lives.

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