Heart disease is not something you should take lightly. And while there are some risk factors you are born with, you can control others. Here’s an easy guide to reducing your risk.
The first thing you should do to help reduce your risk of heart disease is to get yourself to a healthy weight. If you are carrying around some extra pounds, this puts added strain on your heart. The best ways to reach your optimum weight are eating right and raising your activity level. Eating a diet low in cholesterol and fat, and high in vitamins and antioxidants, is a great start. (Nuts are full of good fats and tea has lots of antioxidants.) As far as exercising goes, every little bit helps. No one is saying you have to go out and run a marathon tomorrow; even gardening, dancing, and walking count as exercise. People who are couch potatoes tend to have higher rates of heart disease and death. So find something, anything, physical that you like to do and do it!
Now, with all these good habits and exercise time, you’re bound to improve your cholesterol. Ideally, your total cholesterol should be under 200, your HDL (good cholesterol) should be over 40, and your LDL (bad cholesterol) should be under 160. If your numbers aren’t where they should be, you will be at an increased risk for heart disease. Don’t like taking pills? There are plenty of foods out there that can help you get your levels right where you want them. According to the Mayo Clinic, the 5 best foods for reducing cholesterol are:
1. Oatmeal, oat bran, and high fiber foods
2. Fish and omega-3 fatty acids (the best are salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, albacore tuna, sardines, and halibut)
3. Walnuts, almonds, and other nuts (they are high in calories, so stick to just a handful a day)
4. Olive oil (2 tablespoons a day should do it)
5. Foods with added plant sterols or stanols (check the labels on yogurt, orange juice, and margarines)
I know the next two steps for reducing your risk of heart disease are easier said than done, but it’s in your best interest to try. Quitting smoking and learning to manage your stress and anger are very important. People who smoke are twice as likely to have a heart attack, and more likely to die as the result of an attack. As for stress and anger, these are a typical part of life. You can’t avoid these situations, but you can control how you react to them. Take deep breaths, think of something that makes you happy, and try to mentally step back from the situation before reacting. If you feel you just can’t get your emotions under control, talk with your doctor. He can refer you to a specialist who can help you learn how to deal with stressful situations.
Finally, the most common heart disease risk factor is high blood pressure. Also, because it can significantly raise your risk of heart damage, make sure you get your diabetes under control. Talk with your doctor to decide which options are right for you.
DISCLAIMER: I am not a doctor. Please discuss medical concerns with your health care provider.