What Might Be Putting You at Higher Risk for Heart Disease?
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in four deaths is due to a heart-related condition. While some heart problems are the result of genetic risk factors, others are related to lifestyle choices.
As American Heart Month draws to a close, we are sharing eight things that can impact your odds of developing heart disease.
Eight Behaviors and Characteristics Linked to Heart Disease
- High cholesterol: High cholesterol is a leading contributor to heart disease. While family history plays a role in cholesterol, lifestyle does too. Diet and exercise are keys to maintaining healthy cholesterol and avoiding heart disease.
- Smoking: Most of us associate smoking with lung cancer, but experts at the CDC say tobacco use is also linked to heart disease. We now know that secondhand smoke is deadly too. If you are a smoker or live with one, talk with the doctor about cessation programs with high success rates.
- Stress: For most people, stress is a part of everyday life. How well you manage it can have an impact on heart health. Find hobbies you enjoy that are known for reducing stress, such as meditation, gardening, swimming, walking, and yoga.
- Sedentary lifestyle: While exercise plays an important role in heart health, staying active throughout the day is equally important. That means reducing the amount of time you spend sitting each day. Research shows that a sedentary lifestyle is just as deadly as smoking.
- Alcohol consumption: This is another risk factor many people are unaware of. Alcohol consumption can increase blood pressure while also adding empty calories to your diet.
- Isolation: People who live more engaged lives tend to be healthier. Whether it is volunteering your time for a charitable organization or taking classes in a local community program, staying actively engaged with the world around you is important.
- Unhealthy diet: Much has been written about the heart health benefits of a Mediterranean style of eating. With a focus on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean protein, people who adopt this style of diet live longer, healthier lives.
- High sodium intake: Western diets are notoriously high in sodium. From fast food to processed foods, most Americans consume too much salt. Reducing your intake can help lower your blood pressure and your risk for heart disease.
Making small, consistent changes increases the likelihood that you will stick with your healthy heart commitment. For example, give up two bad foods each week while simultaneously increasing your level of physical activity.
It might also help to find a heart health buddy who shares your commitment to making changes. The two of you can share strategies and offer each other moral support.
If you would like a visual reminder of how to keep your heart in good shape, this graphic might be helpful. “Heart Health for Seniors” includes tips for everything from calculating your body mass index (BMI) to eating a balanced diet.