Essentially, healthy living is up to you. You can help to avoid heart problems by adopting a healthy lifestyle today. While there are some risk factors you cannot change, such as family history, gender or age, there are some key steps you can take in preventing heart disease:
- Don't smoke: Not smoking or using tobacco is one of the most significant factors for preventing heart disease. Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels, leading to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which 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 regular, daily exercise can help with heart disease prevention as well. And when you combine physical activity with other lifestyle measures, such as maintaining a healthy weight, the payoff is even greater. Try to get 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 get discouraged - even shorter amounts of exercise offer heart benefits. And don't forget that everyday activities such as gardening, housekeeping, taking the stairs and walking the dog 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 can also help prevent heart disease.
- 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 critical to get regular screenings so you know your numbers and whether or not further action is necessary.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Excess weight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight is a great step in preventing heart disease.