You may already know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in this country. What you may not know is that in most cases heart disease is preventable. In fact, by implementing just five healthy lifestyle changes, many people decrease their risk in only a year.
1. Lose weight
About 160 million men and women in this country are overweight or obese. Lugging around excess pounds increases your chance of developing heart disease. Conversely, attaining and maintaining a healthy weight can greatly lower your risk.
Getting plenty of physical activity and overhauling your eating habits are the best places to start. We recommend that you get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week. Moving more can help you trim down, plus exercise has a positive influence on blood pressure and cholesterol.
2. Adopt a heart-healthy diet
Elevated levels of cholesterol, a waxy, fat-like substance, can accumulate in your arteries, causing them to narrow and harden, and increasing your risk of having a heart attack. However, you can lower your cholesterol through diet and exercise.
Keeping your total cholesterol below 200 mg/dl and your LDL (“bad” cholesterol) below 100 mg/dl can significantly reduce the chances of developing heart disease and having a heart attack. The team of specialists at Forest Urgent Care can offer a specific diet and exercise recommendations to help you keep your cholesterol in check.
In general, a heart-healthy diet means limiting saturated fat, processed foods, and sugar. Instead, you should consume mostly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fish, poultry, low-fat dairy products, legumes, nuts, and unsaturated oils, such as olive oil and sunflower oil.
Along with fat, excess sugar contributes to weight gain, can damage arteries, and has a negative impact on cholesterol levels. Aim for no more than 150 calories a day from sugar.
You’ll have more control by preparing most of your meals at home. A good heart-healthy meal could contain about 4 ounces of salmon, green beans with a tablespoon of slivered almonds, mixed salad greens drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, and fresh berries.
3. Control your blood pressure
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, is another significant risk factor for heart disease. Roughly 1 in 3 adults has high blood pressure, and about 20% of those don’t know that they have it. Like other risk factors, losing weight if you need to, getting sufficient daily exercise, and following a heart-healthy diet, will reduce high blood pressure. In some cases, lifestyle changes alone are insufficient in maintaining pressure within a healthy range. In such instances, your Forest Urgent Care doctor may recommend medication.
4. Don’t smoke
If you smoke, quit. Smoking damages blood vessels and arteries that supply blood to your brain and increases the risk of heart disease, a heart attack or stroke. If you’ve had trouble stopping, the Forest Urgent Care team can offer strategies, including medications that can help you quit.
5. Limit alcohol consumption
Excessive alcohol consumption raises triglycerides, increases blood pressure, and depletes nutrients essential for good health. Men should limit alcohol to no more than two drinks a day, while women should have no more than one drink per day.
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