5 Steps towards a healthier heart
Heart disease is the single leading cause of death in America. (One in every five people die of heart disease) And over 1,200,000 incidences of heart attacks occur per year. But the good news is that heart disease is preventable by simple and effective lifestyle modifications.
1. Become active
Physical inactivity is a major risk factor for heart disease. Exercise improves heart function and strengthens it. It also helps to lower blood sugar and cholesterol level. American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on most days of the week.
2. Eat a heart healthy diet
This advice will make you moan if you are a ‘fast food addict’, but adopting a healthy diet routine goes a long way towards decreasing our risk for heart attack. A heart-healthy diet is one that that’s low in fat, and salt, and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fiber. It doesn’t mean that you have to ban ice creams and burgers – having them once in a while won’t do much harm!
3. Watch your weight
Being overweight can lead to conditions that increase your heart disease risk – hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes. We gain weight when the amount of food we eat is in excess of our bodies requirements. How to know if we are overweight? Body Mass index is a good measure of our weight status. Find your BMI by using the BMI calculator. Normal BMI is between 18 and 25. You are overweight if your BMI exceeds 25. But BMI is not perfect as people who are very muscular and physically fit can have high BMI as muscle weighs more than fat. Another measure of weight status is our waist circumference. A waist of over 40 inches in men and 35 inches in women are considered overweight.
4. Quit smoking
This is the single most important piece of advice which helps to significantly reduce your heart attack risk as smoking is the single most important risk factor for sudden cardiac death. And if you don’t smoke, don’t even think about starting. Even inhaling the smoke given out by others is harmful. Tobacco smoke contains over 4800 chemicals that damage your heart and blood vessels and cause lung cancer too.
5. Get regular health checkups
High blood pressure and high cholesterol are significant risk factors for heart disease. So you should routinely check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels and make sure that they stay normal.