Stay Heart Healthy

Heart disease is the leading cause of heart disease in men in the United States. More than one in every four men who died in 2006 died of heart disease. It is important to learn what you can do to keep yourself safe.

Nine out of ten people living with heart disease had at least one risk factor before they were diagnosed. These factors include high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, cigarette smoking, overweight, poor diet, physical inactivity, and excessive alcohol use. Some of these are easier to deal with than others, but all of them are important to address.

The most straightforward lifestyle change is to quit smoking. You can talk to your doctor about how to best break the habit, or there are resources available on the Internet. Quitting smoking will immediately lower your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Other changes are also beneficial. Getting at least 30 minutes a day of moderate exercise helps you keep your weight and blood pressure under control and lessens the strain on your heart. In fact, any amount of physical activity does you good, whether it’s walking, gardening, or even climbing the stairs.

A heart-healthy diet is important. That means more than just maintaining a healthy weight, though that is part of it. You should try to choose foods that help you control your cholesterol levels. Limit your consumption of foods high in saturated fat and trans fats, such as red meat, dairy products, deep-fried foods, and anything that lists “partially hydrogenated vegetable oils” on the ingredients label. Instead, add fruits and vegetables to your diet. Ten servings a day will not only help lower your cholesterol, it fights cancer. Another thing to add to your diet is fish, such as mackerel and salmon, that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are polyunsaturated and therefore healthy. Flaxseed, walnut, soybean, and canola oils are also sources of omega-3s.

Keeping your alcohol consumption to sensible limits is also good for your heart. Overconsumption can be dangerous, but having two drinks a day can actually be good for your heart. However, if you need to not drink for some other reason, it’s important to stick to that.

It’s important to look out for your heart, especially if you have diabetes, a family history of heart disease, or other factors you can’t really control. Talk to your doctor to develop a plan to fight heart disease.

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  • Julie Tran

    Great article packed with solid advice for a healthy heart.  I wanted to point out that heart disease is also the leading cause of death of women.  There’s a public perception that heart disease is mostly a male issue, but this is not accurate.  25% of all female deaths is attributed to heart disease.  Also, the American Heart Association lists heart disease as the single leading cause of death for women in the United States.  Heart attacks, stoke and other cardiovascular diseases cause 2x the number of deaths versus all forms of cancer, including breast cancer.  Of course, almost all the tips you mention apply equally to females.  =)