Heart disease is a condition that affects your blood vessels and arteries, as well as your body’s ability to transport blood from your heart to other organs. As the leading cause of death in the United States, a heart disease diagnosis can feel scary and overwhelming.
The good news is that heart disease is manageable, and many people live healthy, full lives by making small but consistent lifestyle changes. If you’re concerned about heart disease, read on to learn more about what to look out for and ways to improve your overall health.
There are several types of heart disease that can be caused by a variety of factors. Some you may be born with, or others you develop later in life. These include:
Some heart diseases are caused by both genetic and environmental factors. Knowing these factors can help you and your provider develop the best possible treatment and maintenance plan.
Some of the genetic factors that increase your risk for heart disease include:
Additionally, things like smoking, excessive drinking, stress, high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes, and obesity can negatively affect your heart health and make it harder to manage and treat your heart disease.
Treating and managing heart disease looks different for everyone. In some cases, medications can improve your well-being and heart function significantly. In rare circumstances, surgery may be necessary to improve the way your heart functions. However, a key factor in keeping your heart disease in check is adopting healthy lifestyle habits that help your heart function. There are reversible cardiac risk factors that you have control to modify. These include:
Quit or reduce smoking
People who smoke are at a greater risk for high blood pressure, arrhythmia, and other forms of heart disease. If you have been diagnosed with heart disease and you smoke, reducing the amount you smoke or quitting altogether can help improve your heart health and stop more damage from occurring.
Limit alcohol consumption
Excessive drinking leads to increased blood pressure and can also increase your risk of having a stroke. Alcohol can also weaken your heart muscles, making it harder to pump blood throughout your body. Limiting the amount of alcohol you drink ensures your heart can function properly.
Along with benefiting your overall health, regular exercise is beneficial for your heart. Like any muscle, walking, swimming, dancing, or other forms of cardiovascular exercise helps strengthen your heart and improve its ability to pump blood.
Prioritize proper nutrition
Proper nutrition is the most effective way to help manage heart disease because it helps promote healthy weight loss and management. In general, you should avoid processed foods that contain artificial ingredients, saturated fats, and high amounts of added sugar or salt. When choosing what to eat, consider opting for fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins like chicken or turkey, and complex carbs like whole-grain bread and beans. A heart-healthy diet can help lower high cholesterol levels, which are attributed to arterial clogging, and keep your heart healthy.
While heart disease can be challenging to live with, small and steady lifestyle changes can make a significant impact on your heart health. If you want to make lifestyle changes and don’t know where to start, your Atrius Health provider can help you design the best plan for you and your goals.