You only have one heart, so it’s important to take good care of it. Your heart is a powerful muscle that never stops beating from the time it develops until you eventually pass away.
Unfortunately, heart disease can cause damage and keep your heart from working as effectively as possible. But there are ways that you can be proactive and reduce your risk:
1. Quit smoking. Smoking can negatively affect your heart in numerous ways. It can increase your risk of blood clots, cause narrowing of your arteries, increase plaque buildup, and damage cells. All of these factors can contribute to heart disease. Quitting smoking can reduce your risk.
2. Manage chronic conditions. If you have diabetes, high cholesterol, or high blood pressure, make sure that they are well managed. Take any medications as prescribed and implement changes to your diet and exercise that can help naturally lower blood sugar, cholesterol, and blood pressure.
3. Stay active. Incorporate at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity into your daily routine. Aim to do this at least 5 days a week. Exercise gets your heart pumping and blood flowing, plus it can help you manage your weight.
Even if the gym is closed, there are a lot of virtual options and exercises you can do at home with minimal or no equipment. Taking a walk or jog around your neighborhood is free and allows you to get some fresh air and sunlight too!
4. Adjust your diet. Start swapping out unhealthy choices for more nutritious ones. You don’t have to overhaul your diet all at once. Making changes gradually can help you stick with it. Try new fruits and vegetables, eat lean meats and go meatless one or two days a week, and add more whole grains and healthy fats to your meals.
Cut back on processed foods, and read labels so you can keep carbohydrates and sodium levels in check.
5. Reduce stress. Constant stress raises cortisol levels, which in turn can affect blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, and the buildup of plaque in your arteries. All of these are risk factors for heart disease.
Identify stressors in your life and find healthy ways to alleviate them such as exercise, meditation, journaling, talking to friends or family, and getting a good night’s sleep.
Being proactive and making changes to your lifestyle now can help protect your heart for the future. The more aware you are of risk factors that affect you, the more focused you can be in your efforts to maintain good heart health.