We all know the importance of keeping a healthy heart. Heart disease (an umbrella term given to various cardiovascular diseases (CVD’s)) is the leading cause of death in the world, with more than 17.9 million people dying of the disease every year, equating to 31% of all deaths globally. Some CVD’s are unavoidable – such as congenital heart disease which occurs at birth – but most can be prevented through lifestyle.
Considering how deadly heart disease is, minimizing the risk is essential. Here are seven easy ways you can reduce your risk of heart disease and live a healthier, happy life as a result.
The key to reducing your risk of any preventable disease is exercise. By engaging in at least one hour of moderate exercise every day, or several higher intensity workouts fewer times a week instead, you’ll be improving your health on several fronts, especially your heart. As the name suggests, cardiovascular exercise targets the heart and helps to strengthen it, but its biggest advantage is that it gets the heart racing and forces it to pump blood through the vessels harder and more consistently. This can prevent the build of fatty deposits which are responsible for a lot of CVD’s and heart attacks.
Alongside being active, the next basic step you can take to reduce your risk of heart disease is by eating a healthy, balanced diet. This will help your body and organs in all manner of ways, including by monitoring your insulin levels and preventing diabetes, as well as increasing the functionality and overall health of your gut. Whilst a generally balanced diet will keep you healthy on the whole, there are specific foods you can eat to target heart health, including berries which have been proven to reduce inflammation of the arteries. In addition, leafy greens like kale and spinach contain vitamin K which prevents your blood from clotting, therefore reducing your risk of heart disease by up to 16%.
It’s common for people to associate those who sleep a lot to being lazy, but in actual fact, sleeping brings with it exceptional health benefits, least of all for the heart. It’s recommended that adults sleep for at least seven hours a night, with eight or nine hours proving optimal. Failing to do so could increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity, all of which are contributing factors to heart disease.
It might sound strange, but donating to charity has been proven to enhance many aspects of a person’s mental and physical wellbeing, including heart health. This is because acts of altruism greatly reduce stress levels as endorphins are released. There is no one charitable cause that has a greater health impact, for example, donating to an orphan charity and donating to a climate change charity will reap the same rewards in the form of lower stress levels. The less stressed you are, the lower your blood pressure is and the less likely you are to develop a preventable CVD.
If you smoke or drink alcohol on a regular basis – particularly if you do either one in excess – you’re putting yourself at a higher risk of a wide range of nasty diseases, including cancer, liver failure and heart disease. Gradually cutting bad habits like smoking and drinking out of your lifestyle will bode well for your overall health and could even extend your life expectancy. It’s best not to go cold turkey on smoking, and it can actually be deadly to completely cut out alcohol if your body is used to consuming it in large quantities everyday. It’s best to speak to your doctor about stopping smoking and drinking and following a gradual plan than will allow your body to get used to the new normal at a manageable and safe pace.
Linked with a good diet and plenty of exercise, maintaining a healthy weight is fool-proof way of preventing the onset of a preventable CVD. The heavier you are, the greater the pressure is on your organs, especially your heart. In addition, a huge risk factor of being overweight is having high blood pressure and high cholesterol. These, paired with the extra strain on your heart, can make developing heart disease much more likely. So, if you eat well but don’t exercise or exercise but don’t eat well and are overweight as a consequence, pairing the two is essential to keep the extra pounds off and change your life for the better.
If you already have a pre-existing health condition like diabetes, high cholesterol or high blood pressure, or if you’ve had a heart attack or a stroke in the past, it’s imperative that you work with your medical care team to manage your condition. With the right control, medication and outlook, conditions like diabetes can be almost reversed. This means you stand a good chance of reducing your chance of further serious health complications living a relatively normal, long life.
It is worth mentioning that some people will be at a predisposition to certain diseases and health conditions based on their background, ethnicity and family history, but it’s widely accepted that the seven methods above will help an otherwise fit and well person to reduce their risk of developing a preventable CVD in the future.