7 Tips for Reducing Your Risk of Heart Disease

According to the Centers for Disease Control, almost half of all Americans have at least one of the three key risk factors for heart disease – high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. The good news is, these can be impacted with simple lifestyle changes. Some risk factors, like age, race and gender can’t be controlled.

Genetics also plays a role in developing heart disease, so it’s important to identify family members with heart disease or with risk factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol or diabetes. Your family tree is a good starting point for you and your doctor to determine if you’re at risk and what’s best for your heart. 

Dr. Christopher Stout with Mercy Clinic Cardiac, Thoracic and Vascular Surgery has seven tips for reducing your risk for heart disease.

  1. Get moving. Physical inactivity puts you at higher risk for heart disease because it can lead to high cholesterol and being overweight. Doctors recommend getting at least 2.5 hours of moderate exercise a week, or 30 minutes a day.

  2. Eat heart healthy. Unhealthy food choices can cause obesity, high-cholesterol and/or high blood pressure. Research shows obesity increases your odds for developing heart disease because your heart has to work harder to pump extra blood to your body when you are overweight. High cholesterol and high blood pressure impact your heart health as well. Talk to your Mercy doctor about adopting a heart-healthy diet like the Mediterranean Diet or DASH diet.

  3. Get a good night’s rest. Sleep is critical for a healthy heart. A study of 3,000 adults older than 45 found those who slept less than six hours a night were twice as likely to have a heart attack or stroke.

    Snoring can be a symptom of sleep apnea, which is associated with poor heart health. If you or your partner snores, talk to your doctor about treatment options.

  4. Stop stressing. Everyone deals with stress in a different way. Some people manage stress by drinking alcohol, smoking or overeating – all risk factors for heart disease. To limit stress in your life, try meditating, deep breathing, practicing yoga or listening to music.

  5. Quit smoking. Smoking damages the lining of your arteries, which can cause heart disease or stroke. Talk to your Mercy doctor about quitting, or call 800-QUIT-NOW to get the support your need to kick the habit.

  6. Manage diabetes. Uncontrolled blood sugar can damage blood vessels and contribute to heart disease. Keep a close eye on your glucose level and adjust your diet accordingly.

  7. Get screened. Talk to your doctor about how often you should get screened for blood pressure, cholesterol, coronary calcium and cardiovascular disease. Your screening schedule will likely depend on your risk factors.

While following these tips may not eliminate your risk of heart disease, it will certainly benefit your overall health. Talk to your Mercy doctor to understand your risk for heart disease and how you can prevent it.