Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women — particularly those over age 50. While detection and treatment of heart disease has improved with medications and stents, for example, about 600,000 people still die from heart disease in the United States each year — almost one out of every four deaths. However, heart disease can be prevented.
Take the following steps to better care for your heart:
- Watch your diet. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables — adults should have at least five servings each day. Eating foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, and high in fiber can help prevent high cholesterol.
- Get regular exercise. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure.
- Quit smoking. Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. Your physician can suggest ways to help you quit.
- Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can increase your blood pressure. Men should stick to no more than two drinks per day, and women to no more than one.
- Know your cholesterol level. Your primary care physician can check your cholesterol levels.
- Take your medicine as faithfully as possible. If you’re taking medication to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, follow your physician’s instructions carefully. Always ask questions if you don’t understand something.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also has some important tips:
- Don’t become overwhelmed. Remember that even small steps can bring you closer to a healthier heart.
- Have support. On your journey, reach out to others because it’s more fun when you have company. Ask friends and family to join you. And enlist the support of your primary care physician or cardiologist, if you have one.
- Don’t get discouraged. Sometimes, you may not be able to take all of the steps at once. Do everything in your power, then get a good night’s sleep, and continue to do what you can tomorrow and the next day.
- Reward yourself. Look for fun things to do to lower your stress level. Encourage colleagues at work to take a lunchtime walk together, seek out a singing group to join, or make plans to have a healthy dinner with your family or friends.