Experts have known for a while that certain healthy habits are essential to good heart health. Even simple changes can reduce your risk for heart disease – and lifestyle changes have even been shown to help reverse damage in people already diagnosed with a heart condition.
Heart disease is this country’s No.1 killer, but according to the American Heart Association New Orleans, many deaths from heart disease can be prevented each year by adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Find time to exercise
Doing some form of exercise – whether it’s working out at the gym, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or starting a walking program – can improve heart health, according to the AHA. Walking at least 30 minutes of day can help lower your blood pressure, improve your cholesterol profile and help you reduce your risk of coronary heart disease. A recent eight-year study of 13,000 people found that those who walked 30 minutes a day had a significantly lower risk of premature death than those who rarely exercised
Thousands of people will be taking this critical message to heart, and making a commitment to leading a heart healthy life at Saturday’s AHA New Orleans Walk in Champion’s Square.
At this annual event, participants join with others and generate a renewed commitment to heart-healthy living through walking.
Eat a healthy diet
A healthy diet is one of the best weapons to fight heart disease, according the AHA. Foods consumed can affect risk factors such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. Eating fatty foods plays a part in the buildup of fat in your arteries, which can lead to blocked arteries of your heart and to the risk of a heart attack. A healthy diet consisting of lean proteins, vegetables, fruit and whole grains can help improve heart health. If you’re overweight, set weight-loss goals. Even losing a small percentage of your body weight reduces your risk for heart disease.
If you smoke, stop.
The American Heart Association (AHA) says diseases caused by smoking kill more than 440,000 people in the U.S. each year. One out of every five smoking-related deaths is caused by heart disease.
Smoking causes an instant and long-term rise in blood pressure, increases heart rate, reduces blood flow from the heart, damages blood vessels and doubles the risk of stroke.
Top 3 Recommendations for a Healthier Heart
- Find time to exercise: Brisk walking for as little as 30 minutes a day has proven health benefits, such as providing increased energy and circulation, as well as reduced risk of heart disease.
- Eat a healthy diet: Eat more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish, poultry, and nuts. Cut back on sugary foods like soda and on red meat. In general, stay away from foods high in salt, cholesterol, saturated fat, and trans-fat.
- If you smoke, stop: Smoking can seriously damage blood vessels and increase your risk for heart disease.
Tips for sticking with your heart healthy lifestyle changes:
- Start small. Make promises that you can keep. Rather than trying to go the gym every day, aim go three times a week and add more walking each day. Instead of overhauling your entire diet, try replacing sugary treats with healthier options, like fruit.
- Take a gradual approach. Making lifestyle changes may take time. Don’t expect miracles overnight. Try replacing one unhealthy behavior at a time.
- Don’t go it alone. Talking about your resolutions and finding support can help you reach your goals. Try forming a group or take a class with others who have common goals. Having support and being able to talk about your struggles can make sticking to your plan less overwhelming.