By Betty Murray
Heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States, and the leading cause of death for people of most racial/ethnic groups. Cardiovascular diseases claim more lives than all forms of cancer combined, and coronary heart disease (the most common form of heart disease) kills nearly 380,000 people annually.
It’s no question that having a healthy heart is essential to living long and healthy life.
Are you at risk?
There are a number of risk factors that may increase one’s risk of developing some form of heart disease. These common risk factors include:
- High blood pressure
- High blood cholesterol
- Diabetes and prediabetes
- Being overweight or obese
- Being physically inactive
- Having a family history of early heart disease
- Having a history of preeclampsia during pregnancy
- Unhealthy diet
- Age (55 or older for women)
While family history and age are two factors we have no control over, many of the risk factors for heart disease are completely within our realm of control. By making healthy lifestyle choices, you can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease. Here are a few tips to keep your heart healthy:
1. Quit Smoking. If you are a smoker, this may be the most important thing you can do to control your risk factors for heart disease. If you need help or encouragement to quit smoking, talk to your doctor.
2. Cut out the belly fat. According to the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, belly fat is the most dangerous type of fat. It can raise your blood pressure, have a negative effect on blood lipids and damage your heart. A healthy diet and regular exercise are the two factors that will keep belly fat under control.
3. Eat more fish. Consuming fish that is high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon and tuna, can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.
4. Laugh. According to research from the University of Maryland Medical Center, laughter improves blood flow and function of the blood vessels and relieves the stress that causes damage to the inner lining of blood vessels.
5. Drink red wine (in moderation). If you drink alcohol, red wine has more heart healthy benefits than other alcoholic beverages. Red wine can raise your HDL levels (good cholesterol), help prevent blood clots from forming and prevent damage to the arteries.
6. Exercise. Numerous studies over the years have shown that a sedentary lifestyle is one of the number one risk factors for heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends that adults get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week. That measures out to just 30 minutes a day, five days a week. If your busy schedule gets in the way, break it up into 10 or 15-minute increments. Aerobic exercise (exercise that increases your heart rate) is what you need to maintain a healthy heart.
7. Eliminate stress. Find an activity that is relaxing for you and do it as often as possible. Reducing stress lowers your blood pressure and reduces your risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
While you may not have complete control over whether or not you develop heart disease, do what you can to eliminate the most common risk factors for heart disease.
Betty Murray, CN, HHC, RYT is a Certified Nutritionist & Holistic Health Counselor, founder of the Dallas-based integrative medical center, Wellness and founder of the Metabolic Blueprint wellness program. Betty’s nutrition counseling practice specializes in metabolic and digestive disorders and weight loss resistance. A master of the biochemistry of the body, Betty teaches her clients how to utilize nutritional interventions to improve their health. Betty is a member of the Institute of Functional Medicine and the National Association of Nutrition Professionals.