Great question! Our lifestyle choices can go a long way towards reducing our risks for heart disease –a disease which claims more than 17 million lives around the world every year, according to the World Heart Federation. Although medicine has come a long way, lifestyle choices can make a difference in how long and how well we live. There is a lot you can do to maintain a heart-healthy lifestyle, including getting regular exercise, eating a heart-healthy diet, and keeping your stress level low. Read on to learn how to make these changes, and why they are good for your health.
Regular Exercise. Being inactive is one of the top risk factors for heart disease. Regular cardiovascular (“cardio”) exercise has many benefits for your heart, including lowering blood pressure, controlling sugar levels, maintaining a healthy weight, increasing good cholesterol levels, and reducing stress.
Examples of cardio include:
- Walking, running, or hiking
- Playing sports like soccer, basketball, tennis, volleyball, or boxing
- Riding a bike, swimming, or kayaking
A Heart-Healthy Diet. When you eat, you aren’t only feeding your stomach–you’re feeding your heart, too. You can reduce your chances of developing atherosclerosis, the blocked arteries that cause heart disease, with a heart-healthy diet. Heart-healthy foods include salmon, nuts, olive oil, lean meats and low-fat dairy. Fiber-rich foods can help lower your cholesterol, and so can fruits and vegetables which are full of antioxidants, beta blockers and vitamin C. Steer clear of foods with high trans fat levels, such as fried food, and foods with high amounts of salt and sugar, like packaged snacks, sweets, and soft drinks.
Keeping Your Stress in Check. As much as we would like to be able to eliminate all stressors in our life, that’s not usually possible–but we can control how we cope with our stress. There are many healthy things you can do to reduce your stress level. Try exercise, relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga, finding a new hobby to enjoy, taking a vacation or a day off, or spending time with a loved one.
Have a question for a Health Advocate? Email firstname.lastname@example.org, and your question may be answered in an upcoming “Ask a Health Advocate” column!