In spite of the constant advancements in drugs, surgery, and diagnostic techniques, about 7 million people in the world die yearly of heart disease.
Google’s Life Sciences division, together with the American Heart Association, recently announced that it’s giving $50 million into funding the heart issue, with the aim of getting rid of heart disease once and for all.
However, all that money don’t need to be spent because we already know how to cure this disease by making some lifestyle changes including how and what we eat. The real problem is we don’t do it.
You can avoid heart problems in the future by adopting a healthy lifestyle today. Here are seven tips to prevent heart disease:
Don’t smoke or use tobacco
Tobacco use is one of the major risk factors for developing heart disease. Your heart and blood vessels can be destroyed by the chemicals in tobacco, leading to narrowing of the arteries due to plaque accumulation (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis can ultimately lead to a heart attack.
The oxygen in your blood is being swapped by carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke. This increases your blood pressure and heart rate by forcing your heart to work harder to supply enough oxygen.
Women who smoke and take birth control pills are at greater risk of having a heart attack or stroke than are those who don’t smoke or take birth control pills, because both can increase the risk of blood clots.
No amount of smoking is safe when it comes to heart disease prevention. But, the more you smoke, the greater your risk. It can also be risky to take smokeless tobacco, low-tar and low-nicotine cigarettes, and secondhand smoke. The good news, though, is that your risk of heart disease begins to lower soon after quitting.
Eat a heart-healthy diet
A healthy diet can reduce your risk of heart disease. Two examples of heart-healthy food plans include the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) eating plan and the Mediterranean diet.
A diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains can help protect your heart. Eat beans, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, lean meats, and fish as part of a healthy diet.
Avoid too much salt and sugars in your diet. Try to limit or avoid saturated fat and trans-fat. Consume saturated fat to 5 or 6 percent of your daily calories and avoid trans-fat.
Major sources of saturated fat include:
- Red meat
- Full-fat dairy products
- Coconut and palm oils
Sources of trans-fat include:
- Deep-fried fast foods
- Bakery products
- Packaged snack foods
- Crackers, chips and cookies
You don’t have to remove all fats out of your diet. Healthy fats from plant-based sources such as avocado, nuts, olives and olive oil can help your heart by lowering the bad type of cholesterol.
Eat fruits and vegetables to help prevent heart disease, improve your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and improve diabetes.
Eating one apple daily might not seem like much of a health transformation. But eat one apple every day, and at the end of a year you’ve added 3 bushels of apples to your diet, and that’s a lot of fiber and antioxidants which are useful nutrients to your heart health. Eliminating one can of soda a day doesn’t sound like a big deal, until you consider that this stacks up to 30 cases of soda in 1 year. That’s a lot of sugar and calories.
Exercise for about 30 minutes daily
You can reduce your risk of getting heart disease by getting some regular, daily exercise. It is more beneficial to combine physical activity with other lifestyle measures, such as maintaining a healthy weight.
Exercise can help you control your weight and reduce your chances of developing other conditions that may put a strain on your heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes.
Activities such as housekeeping, taking the stairs, gardening, and walking the dog all helps you keep fit. You don’t have to exercise strenuously to achieve benefits, but you can see bigger benefits by increasing the intensity, duration and frequency of your exercises.
Maintain a healthy weight
When you are overweight, it increases your risk of heart disease. Excess weight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of heart disease such as high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure.
Other conditions that increases you risk of heart disease are metabolic syndrome, a combination of fat around your abdomen, high blood pressure, high blood sugar and high triglycerides.
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One way to see if your weight is healthy is to calculate your body mass index (BMI), which considers your height and weight in determining whether you have a healthy or unhealthy percentage of body fat. BMI numbers 25 and higher are generally associated with higher cholesterol, higher blood pressure, and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke.
Get enough sleep
Lack of sufficient sleep can harm your health. People who don’t get enough sleep have a higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes and depression.
Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If you wake up without your alarm clock and you feel refreshed, it means you’re getting enough sleep. But, if you’re constantly reaching for the snooze button and it’s a struggle to get out of bed, it means you need more sleep each night.
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Make sleep a priority in your life. Set a sleep schedule and stick to it by going to bed and waking up at the same times each day. Keep your bedroom dark and quiet, so it’s easier to sleep.
- Manage stress
Some people may resort to drinking, smoking or overeating to cope with stress. Instead of this, find alternative ways to manage stress such as engaging in physical activity, relaxation exercises or meditation.
- Get regular health screenings
High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage your heart and blood vessels. But without testing for them, you probably won’t know whether you have these conditions. Regular screening can detect any issues on time.
- Blood pressure.Regular blood pressure screenings usually start in childhood. You should have a blood pressure test performed at least once every two years to screen for high blood pressure as a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, starting at age 18.
If you’re age 40 or older, or you’re between the ages of 18 and 39 with a high risk of high blood pressure, ask your doctor for a blood pressure reading every year. Optimal blood pressure is less than 120/80 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
- Cholesterol levels.Adults should generally have their cholesterol measured at least once every five years starting at age 18. Earlier testing may be recommended if you have other risk factors, such as a family history of early-onset heart disease.
- Diabetes screening.Since diabetes is a risk factor for developing heart disease, you may want to consider being screened for diabetes. Talk to your doctor about when you should have a fasting blood sugar test or hemoglobin A1C test to check for diabetes.
Depending on your risk factors, such as being overweight or having a family history of diabetes, your doctor may recommend early screening for diabetes. If your weight is normal and you don’t have other risk factors for type 2 diabetes, the American Diabetes Association recommends starting screening at age 45, and then retesting every three years.
If you have a condition such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes, your doctor may prescribe medications and recommend lifestyle changes. Make sure to take your medications as your doctor prescribes and follow a healthy lifestyle plan.