Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 610,000 people died from heart disease alone in 2017. While it’s important that you take steps to protect your heart health, you can’t do so by ignoring other factors that may be affecting your long-term health. For example, many people overlook their risk for developing diabetes or high blood pressure when thinking about how they can keep their hearts healthy and strong. In this post we’ll explore some strategies for managing all aspects of cardiac care so you can live longer without suffering from a condition like stroke or heart attack.
Get an annual check-up
Getting an annual checkup is the first step toward managing heart disease. The American Heart Association recommends that all adults age 20 and older get a physical exam every year, which includes checking your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease, your doctor may recommend more frequent visits to monitor your condition and manage any side effects from medication or other treatments.
The best way to prepare for a checkup is by knowing what to expect when you arrive at the doctor’s office:
- You’ll need to complete paperwork before the appointment begins so don’t forget this important step! It will help make sure everyone has all the information they need about what’s going on with your health care needs at this time in life.*
Make healthy lifestyle changes
- Stop smoking.
- Eat a healthy diet.
- Get regular exercise, such as walking and swimming, for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week (this may be enough to help you reach your goals). If you’re not currently active, start slowly by doing activities that are comfortable for you and gradually build up to more intense activities over time in order to prevent injuries or other problems from arising during your workout routine.
- Manage stress through relaxation techniques like meditation or taking time out every day for yourself–even if it’s just five minutes! Stress can cause heart disease by increasing blood pressure and making it easier for cholesterol-rich plaque to build up along blood vessel walls; reducing stress levels can help prevent these effects from happening in the first place.* Take care of other health problems that could affect your heart health: diabetes mellitus (high blood sugar), high cholesterol levels
Get your weight under control
- Get your weight under control.
Weight loss can help reduce blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides, which are all important risk factors for heart disease. Weight loss can also improve diabetes control by reducing blood glucose levels. If you have diabetes and lose weight, you may be able to decrease or discontinue medications that lower blood glucose levels such as insulin or oral agents (e.g., metformin). Losing weight may also reduce the risk of heart disease by helping to lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels; this effect is especially significant if you’re overweight at baseline (BMI >25 kg/m2) or have been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus*.*
Reduce your alcohol consumption if you drink at all.
You should also reduce your alcohol consumption if you drink at all. The recommended maximum intake is one drink per day for women, and two drinks per day for men (1). A “drink” is defined as a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of liquor (2).
While moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to have some benefits in terms of heart health, heavy drinking can increase blood pressure and cholesterol levels, leading to more plaque buildup in arteries (3). In addition, it increases triglyceride levels — another risk factor for heart disease — by about 50% after just one night’s worth of binge drinking (4).
The best way to avoid heart disease is by making small changes in your life that can have a big impact. Don’t wait for symptoms to appear before getting checked out by your doctor; get an annual check-up and stay on top of other health problems that can affect your heart health, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. By following these tips and others from our experts at Harvard Medical School, you’ll be able to keep yourself healthy well into old age!