What Can I Do to Improve My Heart Health?
January 3, 2022
About 80% of heart disease is preventable if people take just a few steps to protect themselves.
Though genetics can influence the risk for heart disease in many ways, everyone has a lot of control over their heart health.
Here are seven tips that will help to protect you from most heart conditions – from heart failure to stroke:
- Eat better. Your diet should include fruits and vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and plenty of fish and lean meats. Don’t forget to get plenty of fiber (think beans, brown rice, or bran cereals). Cut back on fatty and foods fried in trans fats (common in foods like microwave popcorn, doughnuts, and fried chicken), red meat (you can still have burgers and steaks, just fewer of them), sugary foods and drinks (like soda), salt, and processed foods, which tend to be saltier.
- Avoid cigarette smoke. If you smoke, quit. No matter how long you’ve smoked, you will still benefit from quitting. If you don’t smoke, avoid secondhand smoke. Just being around it can raise the risk of heart disease.
- Get more active. If you have heart disease or any other health problem, talk with your doctor before you start exercising. If you’re new to exercise or haven’t exercised in a long time, start slowly and build. Aim for 30 minutes of heart-pumping activity most days of the week. Think brisk walking, bicycling, and swimming. A pedometer or smartphone app can track your daily activity. Walking is a great way to get active. Start slow, but shoot for at least 10,000 steps a day.
- Don’t skip your medications. If you’re taking medications for blood pressure, cholesterol, or diabetes, take them as directed. If you’re having unpleasant side effects, don’t stop taking them. Instead, ask your doctor about other options. It is especially important to manage your blood pressure and cholesterol. While cholesterol screenings can only be done by a lab or a doctor’s office, you can monitor your blood pressure with a home blood pressure device or using blood pressure equipment available at most pharmacies.
- Watch your weight. If you’re overweight, even a small weight loss (like losing 5% of your body weight) can improve your blood pressure and energy levels. And don’t be afraid to get on a scale. People who weigh themselves just once a week tend to be more successful at taking off extra pounds, so investing in a scale could help you reach your weight loss goals. Follow these tips: Weigh yourself on the same day, at the same time of day, on the same scale every week.
- Limit your alcohol consumption. On average, women should limit to one drink a day. Men should limit to two. One drink equals 4 ounces of wine (about half a glass) or 12 ounces of beer (usually one can or bottle).
- Go for regular checkups. At least once a year, visit a doctor to get a physical to make sure you haven’t developed any conditions that would put you at risk for heart disease and control any conditions you already have.
If you have a doctor, set a schedule for your annual visit. If you don’t have a doctor, contact Grady at (404) 616-1000. We’ll schedule you for a visit near your home.