America's Energy Doctor
Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the US; strokes are the fifth-leading cause. Cardiovascular disease is an epidemic for Americans, and it’s largely because of our typically unhealthy lifestyle. While genetics plays a role in your general health and your susceptibility to heart disease and other conditions, so many of the risk factors for these killers are under your control.
So take control!
All the advice below doesn’t just reduce your risk for heart disease. It’s all good for you for a variety of other reasons. A lot of it cuts your risk for numerous types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, dementia, and plenty of other chronic, life-threatening diseases. And it’ll help you feel, focus, sleep, and perform better. It’ll improve your immune function and digestive system. It’ll make you more energized. It’ll help you live longer. There’s really no end to the benefits.
How to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
- Quit smoking. There’s no overstating the importance of this one. Smoking greatly increases your risk of heart disease, heart attack, and stroke, not to mention several types of cancer. Smokers are two times more likely to have a heart attack than nonsmokers, and they’re also a lot more likely to suffer a fatal one.
- Maintain a healthy body weight. Being overweight—and especially being obese—is another major risk factor. An overweight body is an unhealthy body, plus this ties into many of the other risk factors below.
- Get daily exercise. Inactivity is another huge risk factor. The general goal here is at least 30 minutes of moderately intense to intense exercise, but you do need to safely build up to that under your doctor’s supervision. Regular physical activity is essential to warding off heart disease by managing stress and helping control body weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol. And speaking of…
- Keep your blood pressure and cholesterol in check. Exercise and heart-smart eating are big parts of this. If your levels are high, talk to your doctor about lifestyle changes and medication. You may even be able to get off the drugs after a while of positive lifestyle changes, but in the meantime, don’t let hypertension or high cholesterol go unchecked; it’s constantly doing damage that pushes you toward heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.
- Eat a heart-healthy diet. It’s really not complicated. Choose whole foods over processed ones. Most of what you eat should be fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, lean protein (e.g., legumes, fish, shellfish, and skinless poultry), and a little dairy. Limit sodium, added sugar, artificial ingredients, and saturated fat, and avoid trans fat completely. Opt for organic food as much as possible, too.
- Limit alcohol consumption. There’s evidence that a glass of red wine has heart-health benefits, and even that a daily drink can help stave off heart disease. However, there’s also plenty of evidence that alcohol contributes to being overweight, elevated triglyceride levels, irregular heartbeat, cardiomyopathy, stroke, numerous cancers, and more. So, while you don’t have to be a teetotaler, keep it to the occasional drink and don’t drink to excess.
- Manage your stress. Stress is a key contributor to all sorts of health problems, including high blood pressure, suppressed immune function, heart disease, heart attack, and stroke. As mentioned above, exercise is great in this respect. Lots of other things help too, though, like taking breaks, getting enough sleep, enjoyable activities, socializing, meditating, movement-based activities like yoga or tai chi, an occasional massage, aromatherapy, hot baths, soothing music, and so on.
- Manage diabetes. If you have diabetes, you’re at significantly greater risk of cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and stroke. Consult your physician and follow your care instructions carefully. This is a dangerous condition, but it’s highly manageable with insulin, exercise, and the right diet.