Heart disease is the number one killer in America. According to the CDC, 1 in 4 deaths results from heart disease. That amounts to over 600,000 people each year! Heart disease doesn't discriminate based on gender, race, or socioeconomic status.
The causes? There are many, but most of them are preventable. Smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, high cholesterol, and even diabetes are risk factors. The CDC claims at least 47% of Americans live a lifestyle that predisposes them to heart disease or have a condition that increases the risk.
The good news is there are plenty of ways to prevent heart disease. You don't have to spend a fortune or change every single thing in your lifestyle. Small steps can make all the difference.
1. Move your body regularly
Physical inactivity is one of the big risk factors for heart disease. So if you want to prevent it, make exercise part of your weekly routine. If you haven't exercised in ages, this might feel intimidating. But it shouldn't be!
You don't have to hit the gym each day, do high-intensity interval training, or lift heavy weights right from the start. Moving your body can be as simple as taking a 30-minute brisk walk at lunchtime or after work. It can be a dance class with your friends.
The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of low to moderate-intensity exercise a week. If you opt for something more vigorous, 75 minutes a week will be enough. Of course, if you're up for the challenge, you can aim for more. But be careful not to over-exercise, especially when you're just starting your exercise routine.
2. Eat for heart health
Nutrition has a big impact on heart health. Foods that are high in saturated fat, salt, and even sugar can lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, blood clots, and eventually cardiovascular disease.
Does this mean you should forever say goodbye to things like red meat? Not necessarily. As with everything in our diets, moderation is key. For instance, if you enjoy red meat, consume it rarely, at most 1-2 times per month.
But eating for heart health doesn't mean just cutting out foods. It is more about adding and sometimes replacing foods.
Getting more fiber in your diet is a great way to sustain heart health. Choose things like quinoa, barley, oatmeal, fruits, and veggies, along with beans, lentils, and even soy. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends having a few meatless meals a week. If you're a big meat fan, this might seem very difficult. So try to make it fun. Turn it into a challenge where one day a week is vegan.
There's also another component of our modern diets we should address: packaged foods. More often than not, these come with content high in sodium, sugar, or fat (if not a combination of all three). All these ingredients are linked to heart disease.
Do your best to stay away from such foods. But if you can't, read the label! Lately, more and more companies are paying attention to the ingredients they use. Finding some healthier packaged options is not impossible, but it does require some attention.
3. Try to maintain an optimal weight
Obesity is one of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. So maintaining a healthy weight can help prevent it. Make sure you don't make this an obsession, though. Start with simple diet changes, and you may notice some weight loss without really trying.
If you're already at risk or suffer from high blood pressure or diabetes, talking to a doctor might be necessary. They'll be able to help assess the ideal weight for optimal health. And they'll also guide you in getting there without undereating.
4. Consider supplementing for heart health
Supplements can't undo a bad lifestyle. But they do their part in improving your health. They can help lower cholesterol and maintain normal blood sugar and blood pressure levels.
There's little research to show whether they can truly prevent heart attacks or strokes. But by dealing with some of the leading causes of these problems, they lower the risks.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is an enzyme that your body produces in very small amounts. Supplementing with it may help lower blood pressure. It is also a common supplement for those taking statins to lower cholesterol. That's because those treatments lower the levels of CoQ10 in the body.
Omega 3 fish oil is another supplement to consider to prevent heart disease. Omega 3 lowers triglyceride levels, which cause high blood pressure and increase the risk of stroke.
Krill oil is another supplement to consider for heart health. It contains the same fatty acids as fish oil and helps lower blood lipids. It may also help fight inflammation and reduce pain caused by arthritis.
Don't forget about vitamins and minerals, especially magnesium. Magnesium is known for improving blood pressure and may be used in the case of arrhythmia.
Finally, if you feel you can't get enough fiber through diet, you may consider a fiber supplement. The recommended daily intake is a minimum of 25 to 30 grams. Men 50 or younger should aim for up to 38 grams per day.
5. Prioritize stress reduction and rest
We can't talk about ways to prevent heart disease without addressing stress. Did you know that chronic stress can lead to high blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke?
Other types of stress, such as acute, or episodic, can also cause health problems. You may not always be able to prevent stressful situations, but you can reduce their negative effects on your body.
Start by prioritizing rest. Make sure you get 7-8 hours of sleep per night. But also include some fun, relaxing activities in your weekly schedule. Whether that's reading a book, taking a trip to the spa, spending time out in nature – whatever it is, do something fun and relaxing.
Meditation can also be a great way to manage stress, especially acute stress. Breathing exercises help calm the mind and the heart. If meditating or doing breathing exercises in silence isn't for you, music can also be helpful.
6. Stop smoking
In case you've never heard it before: smoking is bad for you! Not only for your lungs but also your heart. If you combine it with things like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or obesity, the risk of heart disease grows even higher.
It can be challenging to stop smoking. It is a habit that's usually ingrained in many of your day-to-day activities. Your morning coffee, your lunch break, and other moments all feel better with a cigarette.
You may also reach for a cigarette when stressed, thinking it is an excellent stress-reducing technique. It's not, and it only makes things worse for your heart health.
Secondhand smoke may be just as dangerous. So if you have a partner who smokes, it might be a good idea to try and quit together. It will make things easier for both of you.
There's also good news. Only five years after you quit smoking, your heart attack risk is the same as that of a non-smoker.
The bottom line
There are many ways to prevent heart disease. You may feel like you need to change your whole life, all your habits, but that's not necessarily true.
Depending on your current lifestyle, some things may feel more difficult than others. If you're a smoker, quitting could certainly prove to be a challenge - but not an impossible one.
A healthy diet with plenty of fiber and little processed foods will greatly help. Moving your body at least 3-5 times a week should also be part of your routine.
Finally, don't be afraid to add supplements for optimal heart health. If you're unsure where to start looking for the best supplements for heart health, check out some of our recommendations.
This blog post does not provide health or medical advice. This blog post is for informational and educational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional health or medical advice. Before taking any actions based upon such information, we encourage you to consult with the appropriate medical and healthcare professionals. We do not provide any kind of health or medical advice. The use or reliance of any information contained on this blog is solely at your own risk.