Heart disease is a broad term used to describe various ailments of the heart, which include:
- Heart failure
- Congenital heart disease
- Coronary heart or artery disease
- Cardiomyopathy (heart muscle disease)
- Vascular disease (blood vessel disease)
- Abnormal heart rhythms
- Inflammatory heart disease
With so many ailments that fall under heart disease, it's no wonder why it is one of the leading causes of death in both men and women in the U.S. There are certain risk factors for heart disease, many of which are controllable like:
If you fall under one of these risk factors and you're looking to make a change, you can start with these ways to prevent heart disease:
1. Become More Physically Active
As people age, they become less physically active. The fact that their diet and nutrition starts to plummet only magnifies their lack of physical activity and increases their risk for heart disease. If you've become out of shape, here are a few tips to help you ease your way back to a more active lifestyle:
- Elect to take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Choosing parking that is farther away from your destination to increase the distance you need to walk.
- Get off the bus, subway, train or taxi a few blocks away from your destination and walk the rest of the way.
- Do your own housework like cleaning or gardening instead of hiring a professional service.
- Try standing and even pacing about when you take a phone call.
When you're ready to step up your physical activity, consider some of these suggestions:
- Jog with the dog instead of just walking the dog.
- Join a sports and recreation league on the weekends, or start one at work.
- If your hotel doesn't have a fitness center, invest in a jump rope and some resistance bands to bring with you for exercising in your room.
- Join a gym and hire a trainer or go with a friend to motivate you to actually use your gym membership.
- Exercise while watching TV instead of just sitting there.
2. Reduce Your Stress
If stress is one of the risk factors for heart disease that you suffer from, try some of these relaxation techniques:
- Mediate: This doesn't just mean sitting on the floor with your eyes closed. When you meditate, you want to clear your mind. This can be done anywhere and can even be in the form of an activity with repetitive actions. Swimming, painting, gardening and fishing are examples of activities that can be used for meditating.
- Deep breaths: Literally take a step back and breathe deeply during a stressful situation.
- Set aside time for yourself: It's easy to neglect some much needed time for yourself if you're bombarded by work and family life. Set up a time in the day for just yourself and try to stick to it, no matter what.
- Music: If you plan on listening to music to relieve stress, don't just listen to any music. You obviously want to avoid loud and angry music, which might have the opposite effect. Try soothing instrumental music with a slow tempo to help you relive stress.
3. Kick the Habit
Studies show that people who smoke have twice the risk of heart attack than nonsmokers. Giving up smoking or never smoking at all is seemingly one of the easiest ways to prevent heart disease. However, long time smokers will have a very difficult time giving up the habit. Here are some tips that might help you give up this unhealthy, addictive habit:
- Set a date for when you want to quit, and ask for support from friends and family to help you meet that deadline.
- Speak to your physician and seek professional help and support for kicking the habit.
- Slowly wean down your nicotine and try nicotine replacement therapy.
- Join a support group.
- Replace smoking with another oral habit like chewing on a toothpick when you have a cigarette craving.
4. Foods to Prevent Heart Disease
Changing your diet and finding foods to prevent heart disease can also eliminate the following risk factors:
- High blood pressure
- Unhealthy cholesterol levels
Here is a list of foods that can help prevent heart disease:
- Fish: Salmon, herring, tuna and mackerel are loaded with omega 3 fatty acids, which can reduce triglyceride levels in the body. High triglyceride levels have been linked to heart disease and stroke, and are usually a result of obesity and unchecked diabetes. Lowering triglyceride levels can also reduce the level of "bad" LDL cholesterol in the body.
- Poultry: Turkey, chicken and other poultry are low in fat and high in protein, especially if you eat your poultry skinless. Try to avoid the deep fried variety and chicken patties that are higher in fat.
- Lean meat: Meat is not bad if you're trying to prevent heart disease. Just make sure you are getting the lean cuts of meat for your steaks and burgers, and try to limit your red meat intake to maybe once or twice a week. You still want that iron and protein in your diet, but not the fat.
- Fruit: Apples, oranges, bananas, grapefruits, apricots, strawberries, cantaloupes and almost any other fruit you can think of should be increased in your diet in exchange for fatty foods if you want to prevent heart disease. The fiber and other nutrients like vitamin C and potassium make fruits an excellent food source. Many fruits are also low on the Glycemic Index like cantaloupes and apples, making them a great food choice for diabetics.
- Whole grains: The fiber and omega 3 found in whole grain foods are good for regulating blood pressure and lowering cholesterol. It's no wonder why whole grain products have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
- Red wine: If you're looking to prevent heart disease, try drinking one glass of red wine per day for a healthy nightcap. Red wine contains a compound called resveratrol, which has been found to increase the "good" HDL cholesterol in your body. It is also an effective blood thinner, which can protect the arteries and keep blood clots from forming, making it a great tool for preventing heart disease.