Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death worldwide, and it's mostly preventable by changing your lifestyle and managing risk factors. In honor of American Heart Month, here are seven ways you can prevent becoming a statistic.
1. Get moving
Your heart is a muscle and, as with any muscle, exercise is what strengthens it.
The first step is to determine your target heart rate, then find an activity you enjoy and can stick with for the long run.
2. Quit smoking
Quitting smoking is tough. But you know that it's important to quit, and one of the biggest reasons is that it's linked to heart disease.
Here are some strategies to quit smoking and stay strong.
3. Lose weight
Losing weight is more than just diet and exercise. It's a personal journey that involves finding what you like and what works for you, says Dr. Bavani Nadeswaran.
Read these long-term weight loss tips and see if any of them are something you can stick with.
4. Eat heart-healthy foods
Salmon and guacamole are loaded with healthy fats that are good for the heart.
5. Don't forget the chocolate
The good news: chocolate and wine contribute to heart health.
The bad news: only in moderation.
Alcohol and cocoa (a key ingredient in chocolate) have antioxidants that have been shown to increase good cholesterol, lower bad cholesterol and improve blood clotting function.
6. Don't overeat
Although this advice primarily applies during the holidays, when deaths from heart attacks spike thanks to copious amounts of food and temptation, it's valid year round.
Eating a lot of food at once leads to:
- Blood shifting from the heart to the digestive system
- Faster and irregular heart rhythms, which can lead to heart attack or heart failure
7. Don't stress
There are more than 1,400 biochemical responses to stress, including a rise in blood pressure and a faster heart rate. If you don't manage your stress, it can create more stress and trap you in a stress cycle.
UC Irvine Health cardiologist Dr. Shaista Malik provides some tips and strategies for chilling out — and keeping your heart happy.