By Bernard Freeman
The Heart Foundation estimates that, annually, 720,000 people in the United States have their first heart attack and 335,000 more suffer from reoccurring attacks.
Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in our country; it accounts for one of seven deaths in America. Fortunately, making monumental lifestyle changes can greatly reduce your chances of becoming a statistic. You can take control of your health by incorporating these healthy changes as recommended by the Mayo Clinic.
Avoid Tobacco Smoke
Even if you don’t actively use cigarettes, avoiding secondhand smoke can greatly reduce the risks of disease. The chemicals found in tobacco may significantly damage the heart and blood vessels while lowering oxygen in our blood. Smoking is also shown to cause an increase in blood pressure and force the heart to work harder.
There is good news for those who quit and people who are considering a change. The risks of heart disease begin decreasing only days after your last cigarette; after a year, they drop to about half of that of a smoker.
Introducing physical activity to a sedentary lifestyle also reduces the risks of developing heart disease, lowers blood pressure and lowers the risks of certain diabetes.
Fortunately, you don’t have to become a bodybuilder or workout obsessively to decrease your risk for disease. In fact, The American Heart Association recommends utilizing these additions in your daily life to benefit heart health:
- 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise like walking at a brisk pace.
- 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise like running.
- At least two strength training activities per week.
By making these small changes, your heart and overall health will reap significant benefits without being intrusive into your regular schedule.
Eating for Health
Changing eating habits to limit things like salt, sugar and processed sugars and increase nutrients found in vegetables or fruits, lean meats and whole grains will also help protect your heart. In addition to inviting beneficial vitamins that make your body more efficient, a healthy diet can ensure you remain at a healthy weight.
People who are overweight or obese are at increased risk of facing a heart attack or developing a related disease. If you are unsure about which foods can make an impactful difference to your health, consider recruiting a local nutritionist to get you started.