Your heart is a hard worker. Are you doing all you can to keep it healthy?
For tips on taking care of your heart, we asked our friends at Meritain Health Pharmacy Solutions (MPS) for their best heart-healthy advice. Simple acts of self-care—like taking walks, getting quality sleep and cooking healthy meals—are some good suggestions to help your heart and even lower your risk of heart disease.
Below are more ideas for improving your heart health, preventing heart disease, plus information about risk factors. Don’t skip a beat—read up to keep your heart beating strong!
What does the heart do?
Your heart is a vital organ, making it integral to keeping your body running. It’s responsible for keeping your blood pumping, regulating your blood pressure and your heart rate.
Working in tandem with your lungs, your heart circulates oxygen and nutrients throughout the body, delivering them where they need to go. For your heart to work properly, it must have enough strength to keep up with your body’s needs.
Some facts about heart disease
When the heart doesn’t work properly, it sometimes leads to heart disease. Did you know in the U.S., heart disease is the number one cause of death among men and women1? This puts it ahead of cancer, stroke, diabetes and other serious conditions.
Though there are a few kinds, the most common type of heart disease is coronary artery disease, followed by heart attack, rhythm disorders and others. Along with being a top concern, heart conditions are often costly to treat. Health care services, medicines and lost productivity can add up to billions of dollars2. In 2017 and 2018, totals in the U.S. for these categories were $229 billion.
Spotting risk factors
Genetics can often play a role in developing heart disease. Certain risk factors also increase your chances. Leading ones are:
- High blood pressure.
- High cholesterol.
- Poor diet.
- Low physical inactivity.
Unfortunately, the more factors you have, the higher your overall risk. Research also shows stress can make it more likely to get heart disease or have a heart attack.
Improving your heart health
Luckily, by taking preventive measures, you can lower your risk of developing heart disease.
Here’s how to start:
- Get more physical activity—a good goal is to get moving two and a half hours per week, or 30 minutes a day, five days a week. But you can also try simply five, 10, or 15 minutes of exercise a few times each day. A little physical activity is better than none at all!
- Aim for a healthy weight—being overweight is hard on your heart. It can increase your risk of stroke, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Choosing heart-healthy foods and getting regular exercise can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight.
- Eat healthy foods—a healthy diet low in sodium and saturated fat is key to heart disease prevention. In addition, try to:
- Pick vegetables, fruits, whole grains and fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
- Limit sugar and foods with sweeteners.
- Quit smoking—chemicals in tobacco smoke harm your heart and blood vessels in many ways. Quitting can be difficult, so you may want to ask your family and friends for support or check your health benefits for resources.
- Reduce stress levels—stress can contribute to high blood pressure and other heart risks.
- Improve sleep—not getting enough sleep or regularly getting poor quality sleep increases the risk of having high blood pressure, heart disease, and other medical conditions. Aim for seven to eight hours of sleep a night.
- Know your numbers—meet your heart health goals by keeping track of how much you exercise, your blood pressure, your cholesterol numbers—all of which can impact your heart health. Also, keep your doctor up to date on how you’re doing.
Taking care of your heart isn’t easy—but that’s okay! By making one or several of the lifestyle changes above, you can improve your overall health and well-being. Plus, you can lessen chances of a heart attack and other heart disease. You may even lower your overall costs by needing fewer trips to see your doctor!