From what you eat to how much you move, your lifestyle shapes the health of your heart. The American Heart Association (AHA) offers seven suggestions for healthy changes you can start making today.
Comprised of the major modifiable risk factors that contribute to heart disease, the AHA Life’s Simple 7® can empower you to take charge of your heart health. Here’s how:
1. Manage blood pressure.
Being vigilant of your blood pressure can reduce your risk for a variety of cardiovascular conditions, including heart attack, stroke and heart failure. Your heart and brain aren’t the only organs that benefit from healthy blood pressure—high blood pressure can also negatively affect your eyes and kidneys.
2. Control cholesterol.
Managing cholesterol can prevent or slow the accumulation of plaque in blood vessels. Too much plaque contributes to coronary artery disease and other cardiovascular problems.
3. Reduce blood sugar.
Limiting sugar intake can help prevent diabetes, which is a risk factor for high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
4. Get active.
Physical activity helps your heart pump blood more efficiently. Aim for at least two-and-a-half hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week.
5. Eat better.
Orient your diet around vegetables, fruits, whole grains and lean sources of protein, such as fish and poultry. Avoid foods high in trans fats, sodium and sugar.
6. Lose weight.
Weight loss can ease your heart’s burden, as excess weight may force your heart to work harder to pump blood to the rest of your body.
7. Stop smoking.
Studies have shown that stopping smoking can cut your risk of death due to cardiovascular disease by half or more, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.
Cheers to Health
Drinking alcohol often can lead to heart health issues, but if you’re healthy and consume alcohol in moderation, you probably won’t do your heart any harm.
Antioxidants in red wine may reduce heart disease risk, and alcohol provides a slight boost to HDL (good) cholesterol, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). However, researchers haven’t found definitive evidence that alcohol improves heart health.