Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death for men and women across most ethnic and racial groups. More commonly referred to as heart disease, this umbrella term is used to describe conditions that are the result of a narrowing or blockage of blood vessels. It can lead to a variety of medical crises, including a heart attack.
Genetics, sex, and age can both play a role in heart disease. Men are twice as likely as women to develop cardiovascular disease at a young age, often by as much as ten years. But many risk factors are related to lifestyle, too. In honor of National Men’s Health Month in November, we share these tips so that men can lower their risk for cardiovascular disease.
Six Tips for a Healthier Heart
- Adopt a heart-smart diet: Nutrition plays an essential role in heart health. As you plan menus, try to avoid foods that are high in trans and saturated fats, added sugar, and salt. Concentrate on choices that contain healthy fats, like salmon and almonds. Also, make sure to incorporate lean protein, fresh fruits, and vegetables. If you find it easier to follow a more structured eating plan, the DASH Diet is one that repeatedly earns top marks from physicians.
- Exercise regularly: Staying active and getting routine exercise helps to keep blood pressure and cholesterol at healthy levels. Both are key to minimizing the risk of developing heart disease. Research shows exercising for at least 150 minutes per week, or about 20 minutes a day, can impact heart health. Walking, cycling, swimming, low-impact aerobics, and yoga are all forms of exercise to discuss with your primary care physician.
- Manage stress: The last few years have been especially tumultuous for people around the world. From the political climate to the COVID-19 crisis, it’s tough to avoid stress completely. Add your own personal challenges to the mix and chronic stress might be the result. Over time, this stress can contribute to increased blood pressure and an elevated heart rate, both of which can negatively impact the heart. You’ll do your heart a favor by learning how to manage stress in productive ways, such as engaging in art projects, journaling, or learning how to practice meditation.
- Get quality sleep: This may surprise some people, but sleep is necessary for the heart to function effectively. A lack of good, quality sleep is linked to a variety of heart problems. If you are one of many older adults who struggle with insomnia or other sleep problems, discuss the issue with your doctor. There might be a medical condition, such as sleep apnea or a deviated septum, behind your struggles.
- Limit alcohol: Consuming too much alcohol might increase your risk for heart disease. People who drink too much are more likely to sleep less, which may lead them to make poor lifestyle choices including about exercise and diet. While it’s best to ask your doctor for advice, as a general rule men shouldn’t consume more than two drinks a day.
- Stop smoking: Finally, if you are a smoker, do your best to stop. Tobacco use contributes to a wide range of chronic and life-limiting medical problems, including stroke, lung cancer, and heart disease. If you haven’t talked to your doctor about cessation programs, make an appointment to do so.