Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for several populations, including Caucasians, Hispanics, and Black people. It doesn’t discriminate and is also the leading cause of mortality worldwide, accounting for 30% of all deaths.
Cardiovascular disease, heart disease, or CVD pertains to all illnesses affecting the circulatory system, comprising of the heart and the blood vessels. Hypertension (high blood pressure), coronary heart disease (heart attack), and cerebrovascular disease (stroke) are all popular types of heart diseases known by many.
As much as heart disease has risk factors beyond our control, it has become a manageable and preventable medical condition. By adopting and sustaining healthy habits, one can potentially live longer with a healthier heart.
- Be aware of your risks
Know and understand the risk factors that apply to you, especially if your age is between 40 and 75 years old. This is the first step that will help both you and your healthcare providers develop the best treatment or prevention plan for you.
The following risk factors of heart disease can be improved with lifestyle changes:
- high blood pressure
- high cholesterol and low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the “good” cholesterol
- physical inactivity
While there are also these heart disease risk factors that you can’t control:
- family history
- Be physically active
The importance of exercise cannot be overemphasized when it comes to health promotion and disease prevention. For adults, it is advisable to get at least 75 minutes of vigorous activity or 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise weekly.
It’s always best to consult with your healthcare provider first to determine the program that will be most suitable for you. If you’re living a sedentary lifestyle, you can get started by sitting less and doing more physical activities like walking, biking, swimming, or playing a sport that you enjoy.
- Eat a healthy diet (low salt and low fat)
Focus your eating plan on more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, plant-based proteins, fish, and lean animal proteins. Cut back on salt or sodium, saturated fats, and added sugars. Limiting your caloric intake is also an effective non-pharmacological strategy to reduce cardiometabolic risk factors and improve heart function delaying the onset of heart diseases.
- Watch your weight
In connection with a healthy diet, it is also wise to stay at a healthy weight or lose some if you’re overweight or obese. Excess weight can make the heart work harder, increasing the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol. For this reason, your body needs fewer calories as you get older.
Again, you can seek help from your healthcare team for a weight loss plan. It would also help for you to check your body mass index (BMI) to identify your weight status yourself. To maintain a healthy weight, you can’t go wrong with exercising regularly and eating smaller portions of nutrient-rich foods. Managing stress also helps.
- Don’t smoke or avoid secondhand smoke
The nicotine in smoke does the following:
- Reduces the oxygen the heart gets
- Raises blood pressure
- Speeds up the heart rate
- Increases the risk of blood clots that can cause heart attacks or strokes
- Damages the inside of blood vessels, including those in the heart
The time is now to quit smoking. Don’t ever start if you don’t smoke, vape, or use tobacco products as there’s no such thing as a safe tobacco product. You can ask for help from your healthcare team for proven methods to quit smoking or tobacco if it’s a problem for you.
Avoid exposure to secondhand smoke, too. According to a U.S. Surgeon General report, even secondhand smoke exposure poses a serious health hazard. Nonsmokers are up to 30% more likely to develop heart disease or lung cancer from secondhand smoke exposure at home or work.
- Make sure to follow your treatment plan and take your medications
This is a must if you have been diagnosed with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, or other conditions that increase your heart disease or stroke risk. Coordinate accordingly with your healthcare providers. Don’t take aspirin or any other medications as a preventive measure unless your doctor prescribed them for you.
Strictly following your treatment plan, including lifestyle and diet changes, would lead to success in lowering your risks.
- Avoid Stress
Too much stress for too long is bad for the heart. Exposure to stress hormones is detrimental to the body. Chronic stress can result in cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, chest pain, and irregular heartbeats. Exercise, connect with your loved ones, pray, meditate, read a book, or listen to music—do anything you need to do to manage your stress levels.
Sustaining a healthy lifestyle is the best strategy to promote health and prevent illnesses in general. For cardiovascular conditions, the factors that you can control with help from your healthcare providers are physical activities, diet, weight control, smoking cessation, and stress management.