Heart disease is the leading cause of preventable deaths in the UK. One of the biggest contributors to these statistics is a lack of commitment to a heart-healthy lifestyle. Your lifestyle is not only your best defense against heart disease and stroke, it’s also your responsibility.
Fortunately, there are many things you can do to reduce your chances of getting heart disease:
- Quit Smoking.
Cigarette smoking raises your blood pressure and keeps you at a high risk of a heart attack and stroke. If you smoke, quit! If someone in your household smokes, encourage them to quit. We know it’s tough. But it’s tougher to recover from a heart attack or stroke or to live with chronic heart disease.
- Control Your Blood Pressure
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. It is important to get your blood pressure checked regularly – at least once a year for most adults, and more often if you have high blood pressure. Take steps, including lifestyle changes, to prevent or control high blood pressure.
- Reduce Stress
Stress is linked to heart disease in many ways. It can raise your blood pressure. Extreme stress can be a “trigger” for a heart attack. Also, some common ways of coping with stress, such as overeating, heavy drinking, and smoking, are bad for your heart. Some ways to help manage your stress include exercise, listening to music, focusing on something calm or peaceful, and meditating.
- Keep Your Cholesterol & Triglyceride Levels Under Control
You’re more likely to get heart disease if you have:
- Total cholesterol level over 200
- HDL (“good”) cholesterol level under 40
- LDL (“bad”) cholesterol level over 160
- Triglycerides over 150
Cholesterol isn’t the only thing that matters. Your doctor will consider the big picture, including all your potential risks. To help lower cholesterol levels, eat a diet low in cholesterol, saturated fat, and refined sugars and high in fiber.
- Limit Alcohol
Drinking too much alcohol can raise your blood pressure. It also adds extra calories, which may cause weight gain. Both of those raise your risk of heart disease. Men should have no more than two alcoholic drinks per day, and women should not have more than one.
- Regular Exercise
People who don’t exercise are more likely to get heart disease, and die from it, than people who are active. Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you aren’t active now. They can tell you what you can do. Learn how to exercise
- Aim For a Healthy Weight
Losing extra weight is good for your heart. It can also help you lower high blood pressure and manage diabetes. Tips on healthy eating.
- Manage Diabetes
Having diabetes doubles your risk of diabetic heart disease. That is because, over time, high blood sugar from diabetes can damage your blood vessels and the nerves that control your heart and blood vessels. So, it is important to get tested for diabetes, and if you have it, to keep it under control.
- Eat a Healthy Diet
A healthy diet is one of the best weapons you have to fight cardiovascular disease. The food you eat (and the amount) can affect other controllable risk factors: cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, and overweight. Choose nutrient-rich foods over nutrient-poor foods. Choose a diet that emphasizes intake of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and limits intake of sweets, sugar-sweetened beverages, and red meats.