Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, according to the American Heart Association. Stroke, another condition that involves the heart, is the fifth cause of death. Various lifestyle conditions can help reduce the risk of death, lower healthcare costs, and improve quality of life associated with heart disease.
Here are four key lifestyle changes you can make to help improve your heart health and reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Be physically active.
Physical activity can encourage a healthy heart by helping you lose weight, reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, and manage stress. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends that U.S. adults aim for 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week. This amounts to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, which gets your heart and lungs working faster, five days a week.
Many experts say that the best type of physical exercise is the type you enjoy enough to do consistently, so try different exercises to find out what you like most. Discuss any exercise goals and physical limitations with your doctor before you start.
Reduce sugar intake.
Sugar naturally occurs in most foods, including healthy foods like fruits and vegetables. A diet high in added sugars, however, may increase the risk of heart disease.
In a 15-year study published in 2014 in JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers found that individuals who got 17-21 percent of their calories from added sugar had a 38-percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease, compared with those who got only 8 percent of their calories from added sugar.
Sugar may affect heart health by interfering with the liver’s role in metabolism, leading to fat accumulation. Added sugar may also increase blood pressure and chronic inflammation.
Besides lung cancer and other conditions, smoking or tobacco use also contributes to heart disease. Using tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels. Smoking can reduce the amount of oxygen in your blood, forcing your heart to work harder to get enough oxygen to your body, which can raise your blood pressure and heart rate.
Fortunately, the benefits of quitting smoking show up almost immediately. Even one day after quitting smoking, your risk of heart disease declines.
Make small changes.
Many resolutions, including changes to diet or exercise, tend to fail because we start too big. Instead, take smaller steps toward your goal.
For example, instead of adopting a restrictive new diet, try to gradually eliminate or substitute less healthy foods over time. Instead of deciding to join a gym and lose fifty pounds, try to just add 10 more minutes of exercise every day, and focus on losing a few pounds every month. Always be sure to check with your doctor before making major changes to your lifestyle.
Many of the lifestyle changes that you can make to help your heart also encourage your overall health, including lowering your risk of cancer and other diseases. If you are concerned about your health and cancer risk, a full-body MRI could help screen for diseases and answer many of your questions.
The Ezra full-body scan is fast, painless, and non-invasive. Get started today to schedule your Ezra scan.