Heart disease is a leading cause of illness and death in the United States—but did you know that one American dies every 37 seconds in America from cardiovascular disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)? The severity and prevalence of heart disease is something no one can afford to ignore. While the problem can seem overwhelming, there’s a lot you can do to stay heart healthy and decrease your risk of heart disease. Small, consistent steps over time can lead to big changes for your health. Incorporating the following five habits is a great place to start!
Get Sneaky with Exercise
When you hear the word exercise, you might imagine a long, sweaty workout. While exercise is great for your health, experts agree that exercise sessions of just 30 minutes a day, five days a week, are beneficial for reducing the risk of heart disease. Plus, those 30 minutes can be broken down into smaller increments and still be effective! For instance, you could take a 10-minute walk in the morning, a 10-minute walk at lunch, and a 10-minute walk in the evening to achieve your 30-minutes of exercise.
In addition to 30-minutes of intentional exercise, find ways to sneak in extra movement during the day. Parking farther away from the store, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, and working at a standing desk, washing your car instead of going through a car wash are a few ways you sneak in extra movement. These small actions add up to big success when it comes to preventing heart disease.
Commit to Sound Sleep
Sleep is an essential part of good health. Unfortunately, sleep conditions like sleep deprivation, insomnia, and sleep apnea plague nearly 70 million Americans, according to the United Health Foundation. That means one-third of Americans are at increased risk of heart disease and many other health conditions.
So, how can you sleep more soundly and reduce your risk of heart disease?
Here are some pro-sleeper tips:
- Embrace a Routine
- Shut out ambient light with blackout curtains or by wearing a sleep mask.
- Limit caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine at least several hours before bed.
- Keep your room a cool, comfortable temperature.
Just like the sleep routines we create for children, adults can benefit from a structured sleep schedule. To help you develop a sleep routine, experts suggest observing your current sleep habits. What time do you go to sleep? What time do you wake up? How do you feel during the day? Do you fall asleep with the TV on? Is your sleep schedule drastically different on the weekends?
Once you’ve identified the challenges of your current sleep habits, you can take steps to improve. An ideal sleep schedule is one that allows you to get 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Waking up and going to sleep at the same time, even on the weekends, is also beneficial. Make sure to incorporate time for relaxing before going to sleep that doesn’t involve screen time.
Eat Good Fats
Eating fat may seem counterintuitive when talking about heart disease, but not all fats are created equal. Healthy fats include monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, and Omega-3 fatty acids. These fats help lower cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease. Next time you’re at the grocery store, stock up on avocados, nuts, salmon, and extra virgin olive oil. These are some of the many healthy fat foods that can improve your health. Eating foods with good fat, coupled with a diet that incorporates vegetables and fruits, will put you on the path to better health.
Don’t Skip Your Annual Physical
Early detection is imperative for successful outcomes when treating any illnesses, including heart disease. Touching base with your doctor at least once a year helps them establish a baseline of vitals, blood work, and tests from which they can monitor your health. Remember, it’s important to be honest about your health history and concerns, so your doctor can accurately assist you. We can help you find a primary care provider if you need one.
Say Goodbye to the Cigarettes
It’s common knowledge that cigarettes are bad for your health, but just how bad? Consider the fact that cigarette smoking contributes to more than 480,000 deaths in the United States every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and is the leading cause of preventable death. Smokers are two to four times more likely to develop heart disease than nonsmokers and have a 70% higher death rate from coronary artery disease. Quitting smoking is not easy, but it is doable. For free resources about quitting smoking are available at smokefree.gov.
The prevalence of heart disease in America is alarming, but there are easy habits you can incorporate into your daily life that make a big difference. Get started today on a heart healthy path. You'll never regret taking better care of your heart! If you have any questions about your health, start by contacting a primary care provider.