When it comes to developing heart disease – the number one killer in America and world wide – there are things you can and can’t control. So how can we help prevent heart disease? Let’s quickly get what you can’t control out of the way:
- Your age
- Your sex
- Your ethnicity
- Your family history
The good news? An estimated 80% of heart disease is preventable. That’s a whole lot of prevention possible!
Here’s what you can control to help prevent heart disease.
What you need to know to prevent heart disease
Your blood work can tell you a lot about your risk level for developing heart disease.
There’s a reason your doctor looks closely at your cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. If a couple of these values are out of range, you’re at higher risk for a cardiovascular events like heart attack and stroke. If all of these values are out of range, and you have a waist circumference of over 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men, this means you have something called metabolic syndrome, which further increases your risk of heart disease.
Sounds scary, and it is, but healthy changes to your lifestyle can turn those numbers around and lower your risk.
Don’t smoke, don’t drink too much (no more than 2 alcoholic drinks a day for men or 1 drink a day for women), and don’t stay up late scrolling social media or watching Netflix instead of getting the 7-9 hours a night that you need.
Here is where it gets a little (and by little I mean A LOT) more involved.
DO eat a healthy diet.
I go into much of this here – but to sum it up, aim to get 80% of your diet from whole foods. This will ensure you get plenty of fiber from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes, as well as healthy fats from nuts, seeds, avocados, and fatty fish.
DO limit your intake of fast foods and processed foods.
You don’t have to say “never again!” but make these foods the exception rather than the norm. Amount does matter.
DO move your body.
Aerobic exercise and resistance training can help boost heart health:
- Many studies have shown that 150 minutes per week (30 minutes a day, 5 days a week) of moderate activity helps improve circulation, which can reduce blood pressure and resting heart rate. Moderate activity can include brisk walking, swimming, or playing tennis, or other aerobic activities that get the heart pumping.
- Resistance training can help reduce overall body fat and increase lean muscle mass. This is especially important for people who are carrying excess weight in their belly region (a key risk factor for heart disease). Two days per week of working out with weights, resistance bands, or body weight resistance for example is a great start.
- Research shows that a combination of aerobic exercise and resistance training is effective at increasing ‘good’ cholesterol (HDL) and lowering ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL).
DO keep your weight in check.
Check out this article for some of my favorite tips about how to eat to make weight loss easier. For more help with maintaining and losing weight, consider the Shapa scale. Read this article for information about how Shapa can help you reach your weight loss goals. This unique system gives you feedback about your weight, but not in pounds. You can read more about how Shapa works here!
DO manage stress.
For example, getting enough sleep, making time for breathing exercises, eating slower, and learning how to say no are some helpful tools to manage stress levels. This article has some great tips to get less stressed. Why is this important? High stress levels can increase inflammation in the body, leading to higher blood pressure and increased LDL cholesterol levels. High stress levels also often contribute to poor sleep.
While we can’t change things like our age when it comes to preventing heart disease, we can take initiative to change certain lifestyle factors that can help. Eating healthy, exercising, keeping weight in check, and managing stress levels all go a long way toward preventing heart disease. The best part? Even just small steps forward add up over time and can make a huge difference in preventing heart disease long-term.
Looking to sleep better, eat a bit healthier, build a practice of self-care, or just want to feel more energetic each day? Let Shapa be your virtual coach. Shapa focuses your program based on YOUR lifestyle and YOUR goals so you can build healthy habits and achieve lasting results. Learn more about the Shapa difference.
About the author:
Sharone completed her Masters of Science in Nutrition and Education at Columbia University. Having overcome her own not-so-great relationship with food, she is passionate about helping others achieve their health and weight loss goals while finding balance. She enjoys hanging out with her two daughters, husband, giant dog, and cat, especially all together when shenanigans are involved. To learn more about scheduling a nutrition counseling session with Sharone, click here. For more tips and tricks for nutritious living, check out Sharone’s Instagram and Twitter.
Check out more of Sharone’s articles on the Shapa Blog here.