Cardiovascular disease is a killer. In fact, it’s the number one cause of death globally, claiming an estimated 18 million lives each year.
But what exactly defines cardiovascular disease? “Cardio” refers to the heart, while “vascular” refers to blood vessels. Therefore, cardiovascular disease includes heart conditions such as coronary artery disease and heart failure, as well as vascular problems such as high blood pressure and narrowing of arteries.
Most often, the term cardiovascular disease refers to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which is the underlying cause of most heart attacks and strokes.
Fortunately, cardiovascular disease can often be prevented by making healthier choices in your daily life. September 29th is World Heart Day, so we’re sharing some key strategies for maintaining cardiovascular health and preventing disease. Here’s to a happy heart!
1. If you use tobacco, stop. Today.
Smoking and tobacco use is one of the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease. The toxins in tobacco damage your heart and blood vessels, putting you at an increased risk for a heart attack.
The good news? Your risk of cardiovascular disease begins to drop soon after quitting tobacco use! And the risk drops significantly after one year of being tobacco-free.
2. Get your heart rate up through moderate exercise.
Committing to moderate exercise (just as walking at a brisk pace or riding a bike) for 30 minutes each day–or at least 4 to 5 days a week– goes a long way toward preventing cardiovascular complications.
The Department of Health and Human Services recommendations of 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity, 75 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of moderate and vigorous activity.
And it’s not all or nothing. Busy week? Any exercise is better than none!
Find ways to work extra cardio conditioning into your daily tasks. If you’re able, opt for the stairs instead of taking the elevator. Give the dog an extra walk. Making exercise a top priority will not only help fight off heart disease; it also promotes hormone health, better energy levels and weight loss while reducing the risk of high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.
3. Commit to a heart-healthy diet.
Ditch the junk food and reduce your reliance on sugar and salt laden processed foods. Aim for a diet rich in fresh vegetables, fruit, beans, and whole grains. Try to get five to ten servings of fresh fruits and vegetables each day.
If you eat meat and dairy, opt for lean meats, fish and low-fat dairy products. Limit saturated and trans fats, and opt for healthy fats and oils from plant-based sources, such as avocados, nuts, and olives.
4. Get plenty of quality sleep.
Sleep deprivation does more than give you an afternoon case of the yawns. It also puts you at risk for obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart attack.
The average adult requires seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If you’re struggling when your alarm goes off each morning, you’re not getting enough rest.
Make a healthy sleep schedule a top priority. Set a bedtime and waking time, then stick to it as often as possible. Unwind away from electronic devices for an hour before you head to bed. Read a book, take a warm bath, spend a few moments in meditation, or enjoy a hot cup of herbal tea.
If you find that anxiety and worry is keeping you up at night, talk to your doctor about ways to better manage stress. Keep in mind that a healthy diet and exercise will help to relieve stress as well!
5. Get regular health checkups.
Cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure and high cholesterol can seemingly sneak up on you. Regularly scheduled health screenings with your doctor will ensure that any warning signs are caught early on.