Help keep your heart healthy
Many people don’t give much thought to health problems like heart disease. But whether you’re a 20-something or in your 40s, it’s important to maintain healthy habits.
Here are 5 changes you can make today to help prevent heart disease tomorrow.
1. Pay attention to portions
The same parent who served you broccoli may also have initiated you into the “clean plate club.” Overeating — especially with foods high in fat, salt, and sugar — can sabotage your efforts to stay healthy. “Obesity is one of the key risk factors to avoid in fighting heart disease down the road,” says Kaiser Permanente cardiologist Jennifer L. Dorosz, MD. Serve meals on smaller plates to help with portion control, and when dining out, consider sharing a meal, or ask that half of your meal be packed up to take home. It’s also important to eat every 3 to 4 hours to avoid getting too hungry and overindulging later. So take a healthy snack, like a serving of nuts or an apple, with you when you’re on the go.
2. Get moving
Physical activity is proven to reduce your risk of heart disease. “It’s recommended you get an hour a day of moderate exercise 5 days a week,” says Dr. Dorosz. “And you don’t have to do it all at once. There’s good evidence that shows you can break it up, such as 3 brisk 20-minute walks.” As for what exercise is best? That could be anything from jumping on a trampoline, going for a run, or just dancing in your living room. Whether it’s yoga, mountain climbing, or cycling, choose an activity you’ll enjoy — so you’ll stick with it.
3. Find inner peace
Your 30s and 40s can be busy years — raising children, building careers, and even climbing into and out of debt. Finding balance can be stressful. The American Heart Association (AHA) reported that long-term stress can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure that may damage the artery walls. What relieves stress is different for each person, but the AHA advises people to try techniques like deep breathing exercises, setting aside time each day to do something enjoyable, or giving back to your community through volunteering.
4. Quit smoking
Whether you’re someone who smokes as a stress reliever, has an occasional cigarette or cigar, or smokes several packs a day, let’s clear the air: Any smoking can harm your heart, lungs, circulatory system, bones, and skin. “The sooner you can quit, the better,” says Dr. Dorosz. Need help? Check out our Breathe program to help you take the first step to quit smoking.
5. Know your numbers
Your blood pressure and cholesterol numbers help determine your risk for heart problems. And your blood sugar can also influence your risk. Dr. Dorosz says that, “Knowing your numbers at a younger age, can be a good motivating factor to keep making healthy lifestyle choices.” It will also help you be aware of any changes, for example an increase in your blood sugar levels. Talk to your doctor about how often to have routine screenings — especially if you have a family history of heart disease.
“If you can maintain a healthy lifestyle — like keeping a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and not smoking — through your 40s or 50s, you can greatly reduce your chances for a heart attack down the road,” says Dr. Dorosz.
Learn more ways to stay healthy and thrive.