Heart disease is the number one killer of adults in the United States, claiming the lives of over one million men and women every year, according to The Heart Foundation. That means every 60 seconds, someone dies from a heart-disease related event.
This is a scary statistic, but the silver lining for heart disease is that the potential for preventing it is huge. We have probably all heard that eating right, exercising, and controlling risk factors - like smoking and high blood pressure - will help protect our hearts, but how can we truly lower your risk for heart disease?
1. Smokers are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack than non-smokers
Smoking is a nuclear time bomb for heart disease. Not only are smokers more likely to suffer from a heart attack, they are more likely to die as a result. And of the 46 million Americans that smoke, women who smoke and take the contraceptive pill are at a particularly high risk for heart attack.
Smoking is such a high risk factor because the nicotine and carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke damages the heart and cardiovascular system. So, quitting smoking is the number one way to prevent heart disease.
2. Walking every day lowers your risk by 10 percent
In a Leicester study conducted in 2014, adults age 50 and over who were at high risk of heart disease and diabetes were studied to determine the effects of increasing exercise. People who walked an additional 2,000 steps a day (about 20 minutes of lively walking) reduced their risk of having a heart attack or stroke by 10 percent over the next six years.
Other than quitting smoking, regular exercise is the next best prevention method. By doing moderate aerobic exercise five times a week for at least 30 minutes, and/or strength training three times a week for at least 20 minutes, the risk of heart disease lowers significantly.
Try starting out the month by going for 15-minute walks, three times a week. As the month progresses, amp up your walks up to 30 minutes per walk, 4 times a week. Take a friend or a dog with you for extra fun and support!
3. Consuming an extra 7 grams of fiber daily lowers your risk by 9 percent
In a recent study, British researchers found that people who ate seven more grams of dietary fiber daily had a nine percent lower risk of heart disease. Not only is eating more fiber a marker of a healthier diet, it is also good for your blood glucose, cholesterol and the gastrointestinal tract.
Vegetables, beans, fruits, nuts and whole grains are all good sources of fiber. For reference, one apple has about five grams of dietary fiber, and a half a cup of lentils has eight.
4. A daily glass of wine lowers your risk by 25 percent
Research shows that drinking in moderation is heart healthy. Moderation is considered one daily drink for women, and two for men. Alcohol relaxes the blood vessels and thus reduces the blood's ability to clot, making it a useful preventative method for heart disease.
All alcohol has benefits, but wine has slightly more due to the fact that it contains antioxidants and can help boost good cholesterol while lowering LDL, or bad cholesterol.
5. Getting the flu shot reduces risk of heart attack by 36 percent for people with heart disease
People with heart disease and those who have had a stroke are at high risk for developing serious complications from the flu. For these people, getting the flu can be very serious because it puts a lot of stress on the body, which increases the chance of getting another heart attack by 36 percent.
Vaccination is the most important step in protecting against the flu. Even if you don’t see a regular doctor, you can get a flu vaccine from doctor's offices, clinics and pharmacies. Flu shots are approved for people with heart disease and other health conditions, however, don't get the nasal spray flu vaccine if you have heart disease, because its safety has not been established in people with heart disease and other serious conditions.
6. Following a Mediterranean diet lowers your risk by 30 percent
A major Spanish study found that adults age 55 to 80 who ate a Mediterranean diet were 30 percent less likely to have a heart attack or stroke, or die from heart disease over the next five years.
A Mediterranean diet consists of many productive elements, such as healthy fats (olive oil, olives, nuts, seeds), moderate consumption of wine, low consumption of red meats, and lots of high fiber foods such as fruits, nuts, vegetables, legumes and fish. The major benefit of the Mediterranean diet is that it is not just one healthy element, but rather it is a healthy nutritional choice.
Making simple changes in your diet, like reducing the amount of salt and simple carbohydrates you eat, can make a big impact on your heart health. Instead of opting for a side of rice, pasta, or potatoes, go for a salad or a side of steamed veggies instead. Also try replacing the salt in your meal with fresh herbs or spices, and challenge yourself to cook at home at least 3 times a week to explore healthy cooking!
7. Make regular appointments with your doctor
Even if you aren't "sick," making regular check-ups and physicals with your doctor is important. They will be able to track your overall health, as well as your heart health specifically, and they can help you set goals based on this. Be sure to ask them lots of questions, and be up-front and honest with them about things you are experiencing. Trust your doctor's advice, and stick to your health plan that you develop with them as much as possible.
It is also important to take all your medications as prescribed, especially cholesterol and blood pressure medications. If you notice any side effects, or are having a hard time regularly taking your medications, be sure to talk to your doctor as soon as you can.
Tools to support heart health
It is important to make a pact to yourself to make choices for a healthier lifestyle that will lower your risk for heart disease. However, it isn't always easy to make these choices on your own. Below are a few useful tools for taking control of your heart health:
We always refer credentialed, screened, care providers that specialize in a variety of services, including meal preparation, diet monitoring, or starting/executing an exercise regimen, so that you can find the perfect care provider and care options for you. Contact us today at 1-844-505-0004 to schedule your free consultation to determine your in-home care needs.