Last week we talked about cardiovascular disease in women. This week, we will talk about strategies that you can use to help prevent cardiovascular disease. This advice applies to both men and women.
Don’t Smoke or Use Tobacco
This is one of the best things that you can do to protect your heart and cardiovascular system. If you are a smoker, you should stop. If you are not a smoker, you should avoid secondhand smoke.
Here’s how tobacco increases your risk of cardiovascular disease:
The chemicals in tobacco and its smoke can damage the heart and blood vessels.
Cigarette smoke reduces the oxygen in the blood, which leads to an increase in blood pressure and heart rate because the heart has to work harder to get enough oxygen to your brain and body.
No matter how long or how much you have smoked, it’s never too late to quit. The risk of cardiovascular disease starts to drop as soon as the day after you quit! Within a year of your quit date, the risk of heart disease drops to around half that of a smoker.
Move More! Aim for 30-60 minutes of activity each day.
Regular physical activity can significantly lower your risk of cardiovascular disease in many ways.
Your heart muscle becomes stronger with exercise, just like any other muscle in your body.
Physical activity reduces your chances of developing other conditions that can affect your heart and blood vessels, such as type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol.
It also helps control your weight.
If you haven’t been very active for a while, you may need to slowly work your way up to your goals. If you already have cardiovascular disease or other medical conditions, you should check with your doctor before starting an exercise routine.
Here is what your goal should be:
150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise, such as walking at a brisk pace, OR 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, such as running
Two or more strength training sessions per week
If you can’t exercise this much, don’t be discouraged. Even 5 minutes of moving can help. And activities like taking the stairs, walking the dog, gardening, doing household chores, all count toward your total activity. You will see bigger benefits by increasing the frequency, duration, and intensity of your workouts, but you don’t have to do strenuous exercise to improve your risk.
Eat a Heart Healthy Diet
A heart healthy diet includes – more of these foods:
And less of these:
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Being overweight, especially around the middle of the body, increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. Even small amounts of weight loss can be beneficial.
Get Enough Good Quality Sleep
Make this a priority! People who don’t get enough sleep have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and many other medical problems. You should aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night.
Get Regular Health Screenings
Talk with your doctor about screening blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar levels. Otherwise, you won’t know you have them until they have already done damage.
If you already know you have one of these conditions, follow your doctor’s advice and follow up regularly to help lower your risk of damage to your heart and blood vessels.
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Dr. Anita Bennett MD – Health Tip Content Editor