Just because you have heart disease doesn't mean you have to accept it as your fate. Although there are some risk factors you cannot change – such as family history, gender or age – there are some key heart disease prevention steps you can take.
Essentially, healthy living is up to you. You can avoid heart problems in the future by adopting a healthy lifestyle today. Here are five heart disease prevention tips to set you on the right path:
- Don’t smoke: Smoking or using tobacco is one of the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease. Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels, leading to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis can ultimately lead to a heart attack. When it comes to heart disease prevention, no amount of smoking is safe. Smokeless tobacco and low-tar, low-nicotine cigarettes are also risky, as is exposure to secondhand smoke.
- Exercise daily: Getting some regular, daily exercise can reduce your risk of fatal heart disease. And when you combine physical activity with other lifestyle measures, such as maintaining a healthy weight, the payoff is even greater. Try getting at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week. If you can’t meet those guidelines, don’t throw in the towel. Even shorter amounts of exercise offer heart benefits. And don’t forget everyday activities such as gardening, housekeeping, taking the stairs and walking the pooch all count.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet: It’s important to consume foods that are low in fat, cholesterol and salt. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products can help protect your heart. Beans, other low-fat sources of protein and certain types of fish also can also reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of heart disease – high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
- Get screened regularly: High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage your heart and blood vessels. But without testing for them, you probably won't know if you have these conditions. That’s why it is critically important to get regular screenings so you know your numbers and whether action is needed.