Revamp your lifestyle and lower your risk of heart disease with these six steps
Sean Spangler, MD, Cardiologist, Providence Spokane Heart Institute
It doesn’t take much to improve your heart health. In fact, heart disease is about 80 percent preventable when you make the right choices. Ready to make over your heart? Let’s get started.
- Stop smoking right now. The reasons are clear: Smoking contributes to the buildup of fatty substances in the arteries, increases blood pressure and lowers good (HDL) cholesterol. Plus, a double whammy for the heart, smokers also tend to have more difficulty exercising.
- Move more. People who are active are better at controlling their weight, keeping blood pressure low and managing cholesterol levels. You don’t need to huff and puff to reap the benefits—a daily 30-minute brisk walk (or three 10-minute walks) is a good start.
- Taste the rainbow. A healthy diet is essential to a healthy heart. Start by avoiding processed foods and loading up on fruits and vegetables. Include a variety of colors to get the maximum benefits, as plant compounds that give produce its bold colors also help your body fight disease.
- Suppress stress. One key to a healthier heart is managing stress. Although researchers are still trying to understand the exact link, they do know that stress raises blood pressure levels. And for some people, it might invite unhealthy coping mechanisms, like smoking or alcohol. So, relax: You’ll feel better with just 10 minutes of daily laughter, meditation, yoga or deep breathing.
- Hit the hay. When we don’t get enough sleep, we see increases in the stress hormone cortisol and blood pressure levels. When these are constantly elevated, they damage the lining of the blood vessels of the heart. Try to aim for seven to eight hours of shut-eye each night.
- See your doctor. High blood pressure and elevated blood sugar and cholesterol levels raise your risk of heart disease. But you won’t know whether your numbers are high without seeing your primary care provider. So, schedule an appointment! If your levels are out of range, your doctor might prescribe medications that can help control these important risk factors.
- These tips apply to children’s heart health as well, with some child-specific changes. “Kids should get more exercise (60 minutes a day) and more sleep (10-11 hours for 7-12 year-olds and 8-9 hours for 12-18 year-olds). And screen time should be limited, especially before bedtime,” said Scott Wellmann, M.D., pediatric cardiologist with Alaska Children's Heart Center in Anchorage. “I also like to emphasize ‘water first for thirst.’ Juices and soft drinks add sugar and empty calories to kids’ diets, so they should only be available as infrequent options, if at all.”
Find an expert who knows how to keep hearts healthy at a Providence heart clinic near you.
Alaska: Providence Heart & Vascular Center
Oregon and Southwest Washington: Providence Heart & Vascular Institute
Washington: Providence Vascular Institute
Southern California: Providence Health & Services
Montana: International Heart Institute
Kadlec: Kadlec Inland Cardiology