Heart disease is a major public health issue in the United States. A heart-healthy lifestyle can help prevent it. Read more to learn about heart disease and what you can do to keep the heart healthy.
What is heart disease?
Heart disease refers to a range of conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels. It’s a leading cause of death worldwide and a major public health concern. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s the leading cause of mortality for both men and women in the US.
Approximately 610,000 people die of heart disease in the US every year, accounting for 1 in every 4 deaths. Heart disease is also a major economic burden, with total direct and indirect costs estimated to be over $219 billion annually in the US.
Common types of heart disease
Heart disease can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics and unhealthy lifestyle habits, such as smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise. Underlying health conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, can also increase the risk of developing heart disease.
- Coronary artery disease – This occurs when the arteries that supply blood to the heart become narrow or blocked. This leads to chest pain (angina) or a heart attack.
- Heart attack – A heart attack occurs when the blood flow to a part of the heart is blocked, usually by a blood clot. This can cause damage to the heart muscle.
- Congestive heart failure – This long-term condition occurs when the heart becomes weakened and is unable to pump blood effectively, leading to fluid buildup in the body.
- Arrhythmias – These are problems with the rhythm or rate of the heartbeat, such as a fast heartbeat (tachycardia) or a slow heartbeat (bradycardia).
- Valvular heart disease – This refers to problems with the heart valves, which regulate the flow of blood in the heart.
Regular screening and testing can help detect heart disease early and allow for prompt treatment. It’s important to consult with a healthcare provider to determine which tests are appropriate for you, based on your individual risk factors, symptoms, and overall health.
Why should we keep our hearts healthy?
Making heart-healthy choices and adopting a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of heart disease at any age. The earlier you start, the better, as many risk factors for heart disease can develop over time and may be difficult to reverse later in life.
Keeping the heart healthy is important for several reasons:
- Maintains cardiovascular function: A healthy heart pumps blood effectively, providing oxygen and nutrients to the body’s organs and tissues.
- Reduces risk of heart disease: Heart disease is the leading cause of death worldwide. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and avoiding risk factors such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption can help reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Improves overall health: A healthy heart is essential for maintaining overall health and well-being. It helps to lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels, and manage weight.
- Increases lifespan: Taking care of your heart can help increase lifespan and reduce the risk of death from heart disease and other conditions.
- Enhances quality of life: A healthy heart can improve physical and mental health, enabling you to lead a more active and fulfilling life.
How to keep the heart healthy
Preventing heart disease with a healthy lifestyle involves making changes to your daily habits and routines. Here are some steps you can take:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet: Focus on eating a diet that’s rich in fruits, leafy greens, whole grains, lean meats, and healthy foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Fat dairy products, beans, peas, and lentils are also excellent choices for the heart. Limit your intake of processed foods, added sugar, saturated fat and trans fat.
- Exercise regularly: Aim to get at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity most days of the week or 150 minutes of physical activity per week. This can include activities such as walking, cycling, or swimming.
- Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese can increase the risk of heart disease. Maintaining a healthy weight through diet and exercise can help reduce the risk.
- Quit smoking: Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. Quitting smoking can reduce the risk and improve overall health.
- Control stress: Stress can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of heart disease. Finding ways to manage stress, such as through exercise, meditation, or hobbies, can help reduce the risk.
- Limit alcohol consumption: If you drink alcohol excessively, it can increase blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. Limit alcohol intake to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
- Monitor blood pressure and cholesterol: Regular monitoring of blood pressure and cholesterol levels can help identify any potential problems early and allow for prompt treatment.
- Adequate sleep: Getting enough sleep, typically 7 to 8 hours per night, can help regulate blood pressure and reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Regular medical check-ups: Regular doctor visits to check your health status can help detect any potential health problems early and allow for prompt treatment. Make sure to regularly monitor blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other health markers.
Take good care of your heart
Keeping the heart healthy requires a combination of a healthy lifestyle, regular medical check-ups, and effective management of any underlying health conditions.
A heart-healthy lifestyle includes eating a nutritious diet, engaging in regular physical activity, getting enough sleep, and monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Make a conscious effort to avoid smoking, stress, and excessive alcohol consumption.
It’s never too late to make positive changes that can improve your heart health. Whether you’re in your 20s, 40s, 60s, or beyond, taking steps to adopt a healthy lifestyle can have a positive impact on your cardiovascular health and overall well-being.
Consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice and to develop a plan that works best for you.