A healthy heart can keep your whole body healthy. Your heart pumps blood throughout your body, which in turn distributes oxygen and nutrients and removes waste. When heart disease affects this process, it can have negative effects on your health.
Heart disease defined
Heart disease is a term used to describe several health issues such as heart attack, stroke and heart failure. The most common cause of heart disease is the blockage of the blood vessels that pump blood to and from your heart (coronary arteries). Get more specifics from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention here.
Age – As you get older, your risk increases
Sex – Men tend to be at greater risk of developing heart disease; however, women are at greater risk of dying from it1
Family history – If you have a relative with heart disease, particularly a parent, you’re at greater risk
Race – African Americans, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Asian Americans and Hawaiians have a higher risk for heart disease2
Being overweight or obese
Having health issues such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and/or diabetes
Tobacco use – Current and previous tobacco use is a major, preventable risk factor
Having unmanaged stress
Lead a heart-healthy lifestyle
- Talk to your doctor about your risk factors and important screenings to monitor your heart health
- Follow a heart-healthy diet by incorporating nutritious foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and nuts while limiting salt and sugar intake, fatty cuts of meat, and processed foods. A Mediterranean style of eating can show your heart some love.
- Increase your physical activity and exercise regularly. Aim to move more, sit less and get at least 150 minutes of exercise each week. Learn all about exercising for a healthy heart.
- Maintain a healthy weight
- Practice stress management and relaxation techniques. Learn how here.
- Reduce alcohol consumption
- Quit tobacco! The health benefits of quitting are numerous. Access tips to help you quit.
- Get enough sleep – Studies show that people who sleep fewer than seven hours a night are more likely to die of heart disease than those who are better rested. When you don’t get enough sleep, you tend to be more stressed (and stress can lead to lack of sleep!), leading to higher blood pressure. Make sure to de-stress before going to bed in order to get enough sleep to feel well-rested and able to tackle the next day.
For some people, even if you’re able to improve your lifestyle, medication may still be necessary to keep your heart healthy. Talk to your doctor about your specific situation.
1. heart.org. American Heart Association, American Stroke Association. Women & Cardiovascular Diseases. 2013.
2. heart.org. American Heart Association. Heart and Stroke Statistics. 2015.