In This Article
In This Article
In the United States, heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women.
Medically, this is known as coronary artery disease (CAD). It happens when one or more of the blood vessels supplying oxygen into the heart is blocked.
The blocked area loses oxygen. This causes chest pain and the inability of the heart to pump blood throughout the whole body.Dr. Rizza Mira, our in-house medical reviewer.
Anyone can develop heart conditions regardless of gender and age. But women over 45 and men over 55 have a higher risk for heart disease.1
Other risk factors of cardiovascular disease include:
Your family history also affects how likely you are to get heart conditions. The good news is that you can do many things to prevent heart disease.
You can avoid having heart disease or heart conditions by making healthy lifestyle choices. Here are 10 tips on taking better care of your heart.
“Overeating can cause short-term and long-term consequences to the body. Shortly after eating, your blood sugar levels may increase suddenly,” explains Dr. Mira.
Excessive blood sugar can cause plaque build-up in the blood vessels. This can decrease blood supply and oxygen to the heart, increasing your risk for heart attacks.2
In the long-term, extra calories from overeating stores these excess in the form of fat. This is reflected in high cholesterol levels, which can increase the risk of heart disease
You can avoid overeating by planning meals in advance and portioning your meals. One way to do this is by using a small plate or bowl to limit how much food you eat.
Calorie-counting can also help you be mindful of your intake.
Making healthier food choices will further prevent you from overeating. Foods rich in fiber, protein, and healthy fats can satiate you and keep you full longer.
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Doctors use the Body Mass Index (BMI) to determine whether you have a healthy weight, or if you’re obese or overweight. BMI is calculated using your height and weight.
Having excess weight can contribute to heart disease and other health conditions. It can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels.3
A study of over one million women shows that a higher BMI increases your risk of developing coronary artery disease.4
Salt or sodium is an essential mineral for maintaining the balance of your body fluids. It also helps with muscle function and sending nerve impulses.5
However, too much salt can elevate your blood pressure. Dr. Mira says this can strain your heart.
“High blood pressure forces your heart to work extra hard just to pump blood to different organs,” she says.
Cutting down on the amount of salt when preparing or cooking your food can be a good start.
Here are some salt substitutes you can use to flavor food:
Most of your salt intake can also come from canned or processed foods. It’s best to prepare meals at home using whole fresh foods.
But if you lack time to cook your meals, look for options with no added salt or less sodium.
Many fruits and vegetables are rich in nutrients that can help prevent heart disease. For example, you can get vitamin C and beta-carotene from citruses, carrots, and spinach.
These vitamins act as antioxidants. Antioxidants can:6
Atherosclerosis restricts blood flow to your heart muscle. It can increase your risk for coronary artery disease.7
Fruits and vegetables can also help lower blood pressure. Many of them have high amounts of potassium. This mineral helps you maintain normal sodium levels.
Potassium also lessens the tension in your blood vessels, which can help control high blood pressure.8 Maintaining a normal blood pressure decreases your risk for heart disease.
It’s best that you eat whole and fresh fruits and vegetables to your diet. This will help you avoid adding unnecessary salt, sugar, and food additives to your diet.
Whole grains are an excellent source of dietary fiber. Since fiber-rich foods have a low calorie density, eating them can help you manage your weight.9
Studies reveal that a high-fiber diet controls the body's inflammatory reaction. Inflammation is a risk factor to poor heart health.10
Some whole grain products you can choose to add to your diet are:
Unhealthy fats (like saturated fats and trans fats) can raise your low-density lipoprotein or LDL. LDL levels are also known as a “bad” cholesterol.
High LDL levels can increase your risk for heart disease.11 It can also cause plaque to build up in your arteries over time, which may lead to heart attacks or stroke.
Common sources of saturated fat are animal-based food products like beef, pork, poultry, full-fat dairy, eggs, and tropical cooking oils like coconut and palm.
You can switch to a heart-healthy diet by cutting down on these unhealthy fat sources. Here are some simple ways to do it:
Regular exercise can reduce your risk factors for heart disease. For example, getting at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity daily can help lower your blood pressure.12
According to Dr. Mira, The American Heart Association recommends a total of 150 mins of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity.
Other heart-healthy benefits of exercising include:12
Several studies have also shown that people who work out regularly are less likely to have a heart attack or other life-threatening heart conditions.13,14
Drinking small amounts of alcohol isn’t likely to harm your heart. However, research has linked excessive alcohol consumption to high blood pressure, heart failure, and stroke.15
A heart condition called alcoholic cardiomyopathy can happen when a person drinks too much alcohol over a long period. The muscles in your heart can become weaker.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends this alcohol intake for adults:16
Smoking is one of the major causes of cardiovascular disease.17 It can cause plaque build-up in the walls of your arteries and veins.
A cigarette has a toxic mix of more than 7,000 chemicals. When you breathe in cigarette smoke, these chemicals get into your blood and go to the rest of your body.
This can harm your heart and blood vessels, and affect the transportation of oxygen to your heart and the rest of your body.18
“Heart tissues that are deprived of oxygen are more prone to coronary artery disease,” says Dr. Mira.
Your risk for heart diseases may also increase if:
Quitting smoking is the best way to keep yourself and everyone around you safe.
Chronic stress can impact your heart and overall health. When you’re stressed, your body releases the hormone cortisol.
Studies show that long-term stress can lead to elevated cortisol levels. This can increase your triglycerides, cholesterol, and blood pressure.20
You can manage stress in many ways, including:
Identifying what causes your stress can also help you better manage it. You can seek professional help for stress management or relaxation methods.
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