Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States, with one person dying from the disease every 34 seconds. The good news is that there are things that you can do at any age to support heart health and decrease the risk of suffering a heart attack, stroke or other serious complications due to heart disease. Following these tips is a good starting point.
Aim for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity every week. Exercise strengthens the heart muscle, improves circulation and even lowers blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Physical activity doesn't have to mean hitting the gym. Take a walk at one of the many public parks in the Kansas City, MO, area, or sign up for a water aerobics class. You can hit the golf course without a cart or just put on some music and dance. Anything that raises your heart rate can count toward your weekly exercise goals and contribute to cardiovascular health.
Eating too much table salt can raise your blood pressure and your risk for heart disease. Instead of reaching for the salt shaker to add flavor to meals, incorporate fresh herbs. Read labels on condiments, bottled salad dressings, frozen foods, canned foods and other processed foods carefully, as many of them contain higher levels of sodium than you might think. Prepare more meals at home to avoid the excess salt found in many sit-down and fast-food restaurant dishes. Strive to eat less than 2,300 mg of salt per day for heart health.
Smoking puts you at an increased risk for heart disease because it hardens the arteries and contributes to blockages in the cardiovascular system. No matter how long you've been smoking, your heart begins benefiting from quitting immediately. After one year of being cigarette-free, your risk of suffering a heart attack falls dramatically. Five years after quitting, your risk of stroke is about the same as someone who's never smoked before. Quitting can be difficult for seniors, but there are medications, therapies, support groups and even apps that can help you kick the habit. Talk to your health care provider about the best approach for giving up smoking.
Alcohol affects the cardiovascular system in a few ways. It increases heart rate and can cause an irregular heart rhythm. Drinking also increases blood pressure. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that for overall health and well-being, men should have no more than two alcoholic beverages daily, and women should limit themselves to just one. A drink is the equivalent of 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of spirits.
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and triglycerides are types of fats that circulate throughout the cardiovascular system. If the level of either one becomes too high, it can lead to fatty deposits in your arteries that restrict blood flow, raising your risk for heart attack, stroke and heart disease. To limit cholesterol and triglycerides, cook with plant oils rather than butter or lard. Consume more vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables, lean protein and whole grains while cutting back on red meat, fried foods and heavily processed foods.
See your doctor regularly so they can monitor your blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides and blood sugar levels. If you have risk factors for cardiovascular disease, your health care provider can recommend lifestyle changes and prescribe medications and other treatments to lower your likelihood of having heart problems. Residents of The Gardens at Barry Road senior living community can arrange for free transportation to and from appointments, making it easier to see your medical provider as needed.
Being overweight or obese puts you at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease. A healthy diet and exercise plan can help you shed pounds to benefit your heart. Start by setting a modest goal of just 1 to 2 pounds of weight loss per week. Losing just 5% to 10% of your body weight can improve your cholesterol, blood pressure and other markers. For example, if you weigh 180 pounds, that's a total weight loss of just 9 to 18 pounds.
Everyone feels stressed from time to time, but chronic stress can take a toll on your health. Prolonged periods of stress can increase levels of a hormone called cortisol that raises blood sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure. While you may not be able to eliminate stressors from your daily life, you can take steps to manage stress. Find activities that help you relax like hobbies, listening to music, reading or gardening. Talk to people you trust about your feelings, or see a mental health professional for therapy. You can also try relaxation exercises like deep breathing or use a meditation app to calm your body and mind.
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