Heart disease is more than just heart attacks. It includes conditions that affect your blood vessels, heart, and circulation.
Lifestyle changes are the first line of defense against heart disease. These diseases are the leading cause of death throughout the world. Still, you can reduce or even eliminate your risk by making intelligent decisions about what you eat, how much you exercise, and how you manage your stress.
Eat More Plant-Based Foods
Heart diseases are often associated with obesity and poor diet.
One of the best things you can do for your heart is eating more plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds. These foods are naturally low in salts, cholesterol, and saturated fat, but they’re packed with antioxidants and phytonutrients that protect your body from inflammation and disease. And filling yourself up with these healthful foods means you’ll eat less of the unhealthy foods that make your heart worse.
The Lifestyle Heart Trial demonstrated a 91% reduction in the frequency of angina episodes (reduced blood flow to the heart, a chest pain symptom of coronary artery disease) and atherosclerosis (arterial stiffness) in patients who followed a plant-based diet program. The control group of this study was fed the official American Heart Association diet and saw a 53% progression – worsening – of symptoms.
Exercise and Physical Activity
Regular physical activity can lower your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, and other heart-related conditions.
Your body gets healthier as you move, strengthening your bones and muscles, improving your flexibility and balance, and increasing blood flow to deliver more oxygen and nutrients to your tissues.
Most adults need at least 150 minutes of exercise every week, or about 20 to 30 minutes every day. If you’re not used to physical activity, start gradually and ramp up your pace and time as your body adapts.
Give Your Heart a Break From Stress
You can’t avoid all sources of stress, but you can develop healthier coping strategies to manage stress when it does occur.
Bad habits such as smoking, excess alcohol, and overeating can all be seen as attempts to deal with stress. They may provide momentary relief, but they can also significantly raise your risk for heart disease and other chronic diseases.
Chronic stress can do terrible damage to your body. It can lead to increased blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, weight gain, sleep disorders, musculoskeletal problems, and so much more.
Find new ways to de-stress when you feel overwhelmed. If the stressors cannot be avoided, learn to change your reactions and responses to them.
You can work on reducing stress by taking time for yourself, getting enough sleep, practicing relaxation or meditation, or working on your relationships.
It’s not easy to take the first steps toward better heart health, but once you start eating better, moving more, and taking control of your stress levels, your heart and your loved ones will thank you.