10 ways to prevent heart disease and be heart healthy


Although complete prevention of heart disease isn't a guarantee, you can do certain things to lower the risk of developing it. It is even more important for those who have close family members with heart disease to take care of their own health.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, with coronary heart disease being the most common. From 1999 to 2015, about 630,000 people died from heart disease every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Several lifestyle changes and actions can decrease the risk factors associated with heart disease. If you need help making any of these changes, consult with a doctor to determine a plan that is best for your specific health and behavior requirements.

1. Diet

The proper balance of nutrients is important to maintaining a healthy body, including the heart. Limit your intake of sugar, sodium and saturated fat. Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit, whole-grain starches, low- or no-fat dairy products and fish. If you choose to eat meat, make sure it is lean and skinless. Avoid fried food.

2. Stress

Stress can cause high blood pressure and may lead to a heart attack. Stress is unavoidable, but you can manage it a number of ways. Don't bring outside work problems home with you; instead, leave them at the door. Listen to music, read a book, exercise or meditate. Do not drink alcohol or engage in other unhealthy behaviors such as smoking to manage stress.

3. Exercise

Exercise is helpful for relieve stress as well as improving blood circulation, strengthening the heart and assisting with weight loss. Each person's body is different, so consult your doctor to determine the best exercise plan.

4. Smoking

Smoking – and breathing secondhand smoke – raises blood pressure and increases the risk of a heart attack and stroke. If you smoke, talk to a doctor about quitting; if someone you live with smokes, encourage that person to quit for everyone's health.

5. Annual physical

The best way to determine your heart's health is to get an annual physical examination. Knowing what your heart is like year after year makes it easier to discover when something is wrong. This especially is important for those who have a family history of heart disease.

6. Weight

Obesity usually goes hand in hand with high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure – all of which factor into heart disease. Maintain a healthy weight. If you are overweight, talk to your doctor about a safe weight-loss plan that includes exercise and diet changes.

7. Sleep

If you have difficulty getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night or sleep too much, contact your doctor. Too little sleep can have a negative impact on blood pressure and increases the risk of diabetes. Sleep apnea also interferes with a good night's sleep.

8. Alcohol

Excessive alcohol can raise blood pressure. Drinking too much also can cause weight gain because of the sugar in alcohol. Limit alcoholic beverages to one per day.

9. Blood pressure

High blood pressure is a significant risk factor for heart disease. Some individuals naturally have high blood pressure, so medication may be necessary. For others, simple changes in diet (such as reducing sodium and fat) and exercise can help lower blood pressure.

10. Cholesterol

Cholesterol can build up and block arteries. Medicine can lower cholesterol levels, but a healthy diet and exercise are vital to keeping high cholesterol at bay. Avoid fried food and food high in saturated fat.

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