As we grow older, our risk of developing heart disease rises. However, by paying attention to several important factors, you can decrease this risk and protect one of the most important organs in your body. If you’re wondering how to prevent heart disease, use the tips below for help. With a little knowledge and endeavor, you can protect your heart and your overall health.
How to Prevent Heart Disease
Monitor Your Heart Health
First, if you want to learn how to prevent heart disease, you must monitor the major indicators of your heart health: cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Just watching these numbers (with the help of your doctor) is not enough, of course. You must also keep them within the normal range by using some of the tips below.
In addition, the American Heart Association recommends that beginning around age 60, adults request an ankle-brachial test as a part of a regular physical exam (source). This test examines the pulses in your feet and can help diagnose a little-known cardiovascular disease called peripheral artery disease (PAD). PAD causes plaque to build up in the arteries of your legs, and people with PAD have an increased risk of heart attack and stroke.
One risk factor for heart disease is a no-brainer: smoking. For those of you who smoke and want to improve your heart health, you simply must stop. There are a number of programs to help you with this difficult task, and you can also consult your doctor for advice.
Eat a Healthy, Well-Balanced Diet
If you are overweight, try to bring your weight down by eating a healthy and well-balanced diet. Older people need fewer calories than young people, so exercise portion control as well. Build your diet around vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, nuts, and high-quality proteins like fish and chicken. Avoid red meat, saturated fats, and sugar as much as possible to keep your cholesterol down and your blood sugar within the normal range.
Regular exercise won’t just help you lose weight; it will also strengthen your heart. Although it can be daunting to begin an exercise program, remember that you can start small and every bit counts. For example, walking briskly once a day can help keep your blood pressure within the normal range. You could also try swimming, dancing, or yoga. Establishing an exercise routine can be difficult, but many people find that joining an exercise class or walking club makes it easier.
Know the Warning Signs
As we age, it is increasing important to learn the warning signs of heart disease so that when a problem occurs, you can quickly seek help. Early intervention is crucial, as it gives you a much better chance of surviving a heart attack or stroke. Familiarize yourself with the warning signs of heart attacks and strokes, so that you can be proactive in getting help.
Chest pain is the most common symptom associated with a heart attack. Other conditions (like heartburn and muscle strain) can cause chest pain, but doctors say you should go to the emergency room if the pain is new, you feel weak, or the pain keeps you awake at night. Shortness of breath, jaw pain, a cold sweat, nausea, lightheadedness, and discomfort in the upper body are also all signs of a heart attack.
The warning signs of a stroke can be summarized in the acronym FAST:
- Face Drooping (on one side of the face, may include numbness)
- Arm Weakness (may feel numb, ask person to raise arm)
- Speech Difficulty (slurring words, unable to speak, difficult to understand)
- Time to Call 9-1-1 (if any of these symptoms appear, call 9-1-1)
Heart health is important no matter what your age. Now that you know how to prevent heart disease, you just need to get started. So call your doctor for a check-up, focus on eating nutritious food, get moving regularly, and don’t forget the warning signs of heart attacks and strokes. You won’t regret it.
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