Heart Health? Check!

Keeping heart disease under control.

Cardiovascular disease, also called heart disease, is a broad term used to describe a wide range of heart and blood vessel conditions. A few of the most common include heart attack, heart failure, coronary artery disease, abnormal heart rhythms, stroke, high blood pressure, angina, and valve problems. Once you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, you’ll always struggle with it, as there is no cure. Medication and surgery can help prolong your life, but unless you make lifestyle changes, the damage done to your heart and blood vessels may continue to worsen.

While cardiovascular disease is the top cause of death for men and women throughout the world, a diagnosis doesn’t have to be a death warrant. Take steps today to keep your condition in check and improve the health of your heart.

Step 1: Eat Healthy

The foods you eat have a huge impact on the prevention and management of heart disease. A healthy diet can help lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol, control diabetes, and maintain a healthy weight, all which protect your heart and circulatory system from further damage.

A heart-healthy diet includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, beans, and fish high in omega-3 fatty acids. What you want to avoid are foods high in saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, added sugar, and cholesterol.

Step 2: Exercise Regularly

Physical exercise is essential for heart health. You may be out of shape, hate to sweat, and would rather sit on the couch all day, but if you want to protect your heart, exercise is what you need. An active lifestyle that includes at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days of the week helps keep your weight in check, control diabetes, and reduce high blood pressure and high cholesterol, all major risk factors for heart disease. Find an exercise that you enjoy and make it part of your everyday routine.

Certain heart conditions such as arrhythmias or defects may limit the types of activities you’re able to safely do, so talk with your doctor before beginning a new exercise routine.

Step 3: Quit Smoking

Anyone who smokes and has a heart attack shouldn’t be surprised. Smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your heart and body. The toxins in tobacco smoke damage your blood vessels and heart, putting you at risk for atherosclerosis (the build up of plaque in your arteries that restricts blood flow), increased blood pressure, and lowered good cholesterol levels. Stop smoking and avoid secondhand smoke, and you’ll significantly reduce your chances of dying from heart disease.

Step 4: Manage Stress

One of the many ways stress and anxiety affect your body is by harming your heart either directly (stress hormones increase blood pressure) or indirectly (you’re more prone to eat unhealthy, overeat, smoke, drink, or avoid exercise when stressed). Managing stress in healthy ways is one way you can protect your heart. Exercise, meditation, relaxation techniques, and talk therapy are all positive ways to cope with stress.

Step 5: Overcome Depression

As mentioned above, your mental health affects your physical well-being. Like people who are stressed, people who are depressed are more likely to engage in unhealthy habits that are bad for your heart. It’s estimated that one out of three heart attack patients is depressed. Feeling blue and sad for a day or two is normal, but when hopeless feelings go on for a week or more, it’s time to seek help.