It may surprise you to know that heart disease is the leading cause of death for men as well as women. About 250,000 American men, and about the same number of American women, die from this disease every year. A heart attack can strike without you even knowing that you have heart disease, so reduce your risk of having a heart attack by practicing these eight healthy habits.
- Don’t start smoking, and if you already do, stop. The unhealthy habit of puffing on cigarettes damages body organs, and the heart is one of them. Smoking also causes plaque buildup and narrowing of the arteries, which causes coronary heart disease, or CHD. It contributes to peripheral artery disease, or PAD, as well. CHD and PAD raise your risk for a heart attack.
- Monitor your blood pressure because high blood pressure, or hypertension, can raise your risk for heart disease and lead to a heart attack. Take special care to keep your blood pressure low if you are overweight. If hypertension runs in your family, watch your blood pressure. Also, avoid eating too much salt. Take medication if your blood pressure is high and you cannot lower it on your own. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg.
- Eat for the health of your heart. Consume leafy greens and fruits, low-fat meat and poultry, nuts and seeds, soybeans, beans, and healthy oils like olive oil, corn oil, safflower oil, and canola oil. Stay away from foods that contain saturated fat, trans fat, and a lot of carbohydrates and sugar. Develop a low carb meal plan to prevent diabetes, since diabetes raises the risk for a heart attack. Also avoid drinking too much alcohol.
- Tame your anger. Anger is a major cause of stress, and stress brought about by anger has been known to cause heart attacks. Sometimes people resort to consuming an abundance of food, alcohol, or cigarettes to combat stress. Since all of these actions contribute to heart disease, it’s obvious that stress should be avoided at all costs. To reduce your stress level, exercise, engage in relaxing therapies, and cultivate strong relationships.
- Stay active to reduce your risk of having a heart attack. Keep moving to keep blood pressure and cholesterol low too. Regular exercise can also protect you from diabetes, and being active on a regular basis will help keep your weight under control.
- Lose weight if you are obese. Excess body fat raises your risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. A body mass index that ranges from 18.5 to 24.9 is desirable, and you can check yours using a BMI calculator. You can also check to see if you are overweight by measuring the size of your waist. Women who have a waist that exceeds 35 inches are considered overweight. Overweight men have a waist that exceeds 40 inches.
- Eat heart healthy when dining out. When you are not the one preparing the food you eat, you don’t know if your food is heart healthy or not. To find out what’s in the dish you are ordering and about to consume, simply ask your waitress. If it is a dish that is made with a lot of butter, which is high in saturated fat, order something else.
- Keep bad cholesterol at bay to prevent a buildup of plaque in the arteries that can cause a heart attack. Read all the labels on the foods you eat to see how much cholesterol these foods contain. Make sure your cholesterol level is below 200 mg/dL. If it is higher than that, talk to your doctor about lowering it.
These eight simple steps can save your life. They are easy to follow and worth the effort. Don’t wait to start practicing these heart-friendly habits.