This Is the Best Thing You Can Do For Your Heart Health Right Now
Make these things a part of your everyday life now—and your heart will thank you later.
You know how important it is to have a healthy heart and you know there are things you can do to help ensure that you have one. But knowing those facts and actually doing something about them are two very different things. And that's pretty clear when you consider that heart disease is still the leading killer of both men and women in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—despite the fact that both the CDC and the American Heart Association estimate that 80 percent of cases are preventable. That's pretty staggering. And with that in mind, we've put together the five best things you can do for your heart health, according to medical experts. Incorporate all of them into your daily life—starting now. And for some things you want to stop doing for the sake of your well-being, check out The Worst Things You Can Do for Your Health This Fall, According to Doctors.
Avoid tobacco at all costs.
Not that you didn't know this already, but smoking is one of the worst things you can do for your health. It damages nearly every organ in the body, including the heart—where it destroys blood vessels, causes clots, and raises blood pressure. And not only is smoking the leading cause of preventable death in the U.S., according to the CDC, even light smokers (about five cigarettes a day) are more likely to die from heart disease, stroke, or lung cancer than nonsmokers. Quitting now can add years to your life. And if you don't smoke, make sure that you also avoid secondhand smoke, and other forms of tobacco, which can be just as deadly. Need some help kicking the habit for good? Here are The 10 Best Ways to Stop Smoking You've Never Tried.
Eat healthy fats.
Despite what some of the fad diets out there may have you believe, not all fats are bad fats. "We need fats in our diet, including saturated and polyunsaturated and unsaturated fats," says Marc Gillinov, MD, chair of Cleveland Clinic's Department of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. "One fat we don't need is trans fat, which is known to increase your risk of developing heart disease or having a stroke over a lifetime." Trans fats are most often found in "industry-produced fats often used in packaged baked goods, snack foods, margarines, and fried fast foods to add flavor and texture."
Take care of your teeth.
Having fresh breath and a nice smile aren't the only reasons to practice good oral hygiene. "Gum and dental health is important for many reasons, your heart included," Jennifer Haythe, MD, associate professor of medicine at the Center for Advanced Cardiac Care at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York, previously told Best Life. "Studies have found that people with periodontal [gum] disease have two to three times the risk of heart attack, stroke, or other serious cardiovascular events." To prevent cavities and gum disease, the American Dental Association recommends that you brush your teeth twice daily with a fluoride toothpaste and floss. And for more important tips for your ticker, check out These Are the Heart Attack Warning Signs Hiding in Plain Sight.
Watch your weight.
Being overweight puts added strain on your heart and blood vessels, the CDC says. This puts you at a greater risk of heart disease and are other serious conditions like diabetes. However, according to Harvard Health: "If you are overweight, losing just 5 percent to 10 percent of your starting weight can make a big difference in your blood pressure and blood sugar." Don't know what a healthy weight is for your body? Visit the CDC's website to calculate your body mass index (BMI).
Be more active.
It can't be said enough: Sit less. Move more. Physical activity is essential to living a healthy life. Exercise has countless benefits, not the least of which is the effect it has on your heart health. According to the CDC: "Heart disease and stroke are two of the leading causes of death in the United States. Following the recommendations and getting at least 150 minutes a week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity can put you at a lower risk for these diseases. You can reduce your risk even further with more physical activity."
What's more, "regular physical activity can also lower your blood pressure and improve your cholesterol levels," the CDC says. So, the time to get your body up and in motion is now. You'll be happy you did. And for more helpful health information delivered straight to your inbox, sign up for our daily newsletter.