Heart disease refers to several types of heart conditions, with the most common type being coronary artery disease (CAD). Heart disease is a debilitating condition and is the leading cause of death in the United States, according to the CDC. There are both modifiable and non-modifiable risk factors. While non-modifiable risk factors are factors you cannot control, such as genetics, you can control modifiable risk factors by changing your lifestyle.
The choices you make can influence your heart health. By making lifestyle changes, you can greatly reduce the chance of heart disease. Positive lifestyle changes include:
The most crucial step you can take to lower your risk of heart disease is to quit smoking. Every time you inhale cigarette smoke, your heart rate and blood pressure go up temporarily. This can put extra stress on your heart, forcing it to work harder than usual. Over time, smoking causes damage in other ways too, by:
- Clogging your arteries
- Increasing clotting
- Thickening your blood
- Weakening your bones
- Increasing inflammation
Once you quit smoking, the effects will come on quite suddenly. Your blood pressure will decrease, circulation will improve, and your oxygen supply will increase. The longer you stay away from smoking, the quicker your body will heal.
Exercise is an effective tool for keeping your weight under control and warding off the artery damage from high cholesterol, high blood sugar and high blood pressure that can lead to a heart attack or stroke. Aerobic exercise improves circulation, which results in lowered blood pressure and heart rate. Some great aerobic exercises include:
- Brisk walking
- Playing tennis
It is recommended that adults get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity. If you are just getting into exercise, start slow by setting a reachable goal every day and working your way up to 150 minutes per week.
Nutrition and diet
An unhealthy diet can be one of the contributing risk factors for heart disease. Paying attention to what you eat and consuming a variety of healthy foods are your best ways to fight cardiovascular disease. An overall healthy dietary pattern should consist of:
- A variety of fruits and vegetables
- Whole grains
- Low-fat dairy products
- Nuts and legumes
- Poultry and fish
Soda and sugary drinks are far from healthy and can put you at risk for heart disease. One study showed that men who drank 12 ounces of sugar-sweetened sodas, sports drinks, energy drinks, and fruit drinks daily had a 20% higher risk of coronary artery disease. Especially if you are already at risk for heart disease, cutting soda out of your diet is a good way to stay healthy.
Control your blood pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. High blood pressure comes from an increase in resistance of the arteries. Because of this resistance, your heart has to work twice as hard to get blood to your extremities and vital organs. Controlling your blood pressure can:
- Improve your heart health
- Decrease your chance of a stroke
- Protect your kidneys
- Improve your quality of life
When it comes to improving your health, you should always start off small. Doing too many lifestyle changes at once can become overwhelming and may set you back. Any amount of movement, diet change, or lifestyle change you make is better than none.
At Summit Medical Clinic, we provide preventive and primary care services. Our Internal Medicine physicians offer collaborative care of patients with chronic medical illnesses, including high blood pressure, diabetes, heart and thyroid disease, and other common and uncommon medical problems throughout the various stages of their illness. Schedule an appointment by calling (719) 630-1006 or visiting our website.