The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that heart disease is the number one cause of death. Up to 31% of all deaths globally can be attributed to complications from heart disease. Age is a large risk factor, but waiting until your 60th birthday to take action is a mistake. Don’t contribute to these gloomy WHO heart disease statistics. Follow these eight rules to protect your heart and live longer and healthier.
- Know your family’s history. If your grandparents or parents had heart disease, you are more likely to suffer from it too. If you aren’t sure, ask relatives who might know. If heart disease is common in your family, following the other recommendations is extra important.
- If you smoke, quit. Smoking is the number one preventable cause of heart disease. The addictive qualities of nicotine make quitting a challenge. Find a partner to quit with you, try nicotine replacement therapy, or talk to your doctor about prescription drugs that may help you kick the habit.
- Watch your weight. Obesity is also a significant risk factor for heart disease. To lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. Talk to your doctor or a dietitian about developing a plan that works best for you.
- Eat healthily. Eating the right foods is important. Avoid processed and fried foods as much as possible. Cook at home using fresh ingredients. Eat more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Reduce your serving sizes and be mindful of when you are actually getting full.
- Reduce your blood sugar levels. Cut back on desserts, carbohydrates, and sugary drinks. Foods like blueberries, blackberries, almonds, spinach, and kale are known to lower blood sugar.
- Limit the amount of alcohol you consume. Drinking alcohol in moderation may have some health benefits for those with a healthy lifestyle. However, doctors recommend that you limit your alcohol intake to two drinks a day if you are a man and one drink a day if you are a woman.
- Exercise. The Mayo Clinic recommends that each week you get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise. Examples of moderate exercise are walking, playing catch, and recreational badminton. Vigorous exercise includes running, dancing, and cycling. Weight training twice a week, with 12 to15 repetitions for each muscle group is also recommended.
- Find ways to relieve stress. Do yoga, meditate, talk to a friend, or journal for 20 minutes every day. If stress is a major problem, consider talking to a counselor.
The science behind heart disease prevention is always changing. As the guardian of your own health, it is important to be flexible and incorporate new information into your self-care regime. The threat of heart disease may seem vague and distant. But you don’t have to wait for the distant future to see the benefits. Follow these eight recommendations and feel better every day.