How to Get Heart Healthy (and Stay That Way)

The statistics are in, and they’re staggering: according to the American College of Cardiology, heart disease causes one out of every three deaths in the United States. That’s approximately 800,000 lives claimed by coronary heart disease, stroke, and heart failure every year. It’s also a sobering reminder that cardiovascular disease (CVD) is something that every person needs to pay attention to, no matter their walk of life.

The good news is that there are several simple habits and activities that have been proven by modern medical science to decrease the risk of CVD, both in the short term and long term.

Here’s a few that we recommend:

5 DAILY HABITS THAT REDUCE CVD RISK

  • Sleep. If you’re sick of hearing about the importance of sleep, you’re probably not getting enough sleep. And you’re not alone. Still, regular, quality sleep can help dramatically reduce risk of heart disease (among other amazing benefits!).
  • Get active. Most people spend a good portion of their days seated, staring at a screen. Regardless of your line of work or lifestyle, even a short, ten-minute walk at an easy pace can improve your overall health and reduce CVD risk.
  • Stay away from alcohol and cigarettes. This should be the golden rule of CVD prevention. The impact of alcohol and cigarettes goes far beyond your ticker, but has been directly linked to increased heart disease risk.
  • Don’t eat bad fats. There are “good” fats, and there are bad fats. Be on the lookout for foods high in trans-fat and saturated fat. Generally lowering overall fat intake can help, too. A good rule of thumb is to avoid foods from which a third of the total calories come from fat.
  • Floss your teeth! Grumble, grumble. Turns out that thing we all forget to do every night can help prevent heart disease. That’s because there is a direct link between heart disease and mouth born bacteria. So, grab your floss at least once a day. Your heart will thank you.

5 LONG-TERM STRATEGIES FOR REDUCING CVD RISK

  • Exercise regularly. If you’ve heard this one before, maybe it’s time to take action. Try joining a group workout, such as a boxing gym, yoga, or CrossFit—this can help you stay accountable and commit to working out in the long term.
  • Monitor weight and blood pressure. Many doctors recommend keeping a journal, especially if you are trying to normalize your blood pressure. Don’t obsess, but be on the lookout for drastic changes or changes that put you outside of healthy ranges. Pro tip: those five tips above? Most of them contribute to healthy blood pressure.
  • Maintain good nutrition. This extends beyond fats to all the food groups. You remember the five food groups, right?
  • Reduce stress. This one is very important. We’ve all seen the television shows where someone has a heart attack after being surprised, shocked, or scared. But stress can be far subtler, adding up over time and increasing risk of CVD.
  • Regular health screenings. Don’t skip your annual physical, and be proactive if it has been a while since you’ve had a regular health screening. Basic tests can reveal warning signs of CVD and help you get out ahead of any problems.

Bonus tip: talk to your physical therapist.

It might seem counterintuitive, but you’d be surprised at the key role physical therapists can play in helping you to both treat CVD and help prevent its onset. Need proof? In a recent case study, a patient used the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill™ during  cardiovascular rehabilitation after an acute myocardial infarction. After a careful and precise rehab program, this patient was able to return to the safe and regular exercise that she was accustomed to before the heart event, and sooner than was otherwise expected by medical professionals. In another study, a super obese participant took part in a walking program for obesity (using the AlterG Anti-Gravity Treadmill). After fourteen days, the patient saw pain reduction, improved mobility, and better conditioning, outcomes that can often prove difficult, painful, and frustrating for people suffering from obesity.

The truth is, no one is perfect, and keeping the strategies outlined above can be a challenge. Given the statistics around CVD, though, your effort on a daily and long-term basis can pay major dividends, helping to keep your heart healthy and free of potentially life-threatening diseases.