Most people tend to think of heart disease as affecting men, but it affects women, too — in fact, it’s the leading cause of death for American women. Despite that, only about half of women understand the serious threat heart disease poses, which means they’re missing out on important steps they can take to keep their hearts healthy.
The team at Phoenix Heart, PLLC, helps women in Scottsdale, Glendale, Goodyear, Anthem, and Canyon City, Arizona, manage their heart health risks and improve their cardiovascular wellness with testing, medical treatments, on-site lab services, and lifestyle changes aimed at keeping their hearts healthy. If you’d like to play a more proactive role in maintaining your own heart health, here are eight things you can do to improve your cardiovascular health and your overall wellness, too.
1. Adopt a healthy diet
One of the best things you can do to help your heart is to maintain healthy eating habits. In general, avoid foods high in unhealthy fats, sodium, and sugars, and opt for fresh fruits and vegetables, salads, and foods high in fiber. Lean protein and low-fat dairy are good, too. The American Heart Association website offers lots of tips to help you get started.
2. Be more active
Physical activity exercises your heart muscle to help keep it strong, and it also helps reduce your risks of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, major risk factors for heart disease. According to the CDC, you need about 150 minutes of brisk aerobic activity, like walking, biking, or swimming, to get the most benefits for your heart and circulatory system. That’s about a half hour a day for five days each week.
3. Quit smoking
Chemicals in smoke cause damage to your heart and blood vessels, making it harder for your heart to get the oxygen it needs to function normally. Those chemicals also damage the inside of your vessels, resulting in “clogs” that can eventually cause heart attacks or strokes.
4. Limit alcohol intake
While an occasional drink is OK (in terms of heart health), drinking too much increases your risks of heart failure, high blood pressure, and stroke. It can also lead to damage to your heart muscle tissue.
5. Lose those extra pounds
Your heart is “designed” to provide your body with oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood necessary for health and function. When you gain extra weight, your heart is tasked with delivering more blood and nutrients, which means it’s also subjected to a lot more strain. Losing weight decreases that strain on your heart, while providing plenty of other health benefits, too.
6. Learn to manage stress
Stress is another factor that could be affecting your heart, especially if you have chronic stress — stress on a daily or regular basis. Taking some time each day to unwind with an activity you really enjoy is one easy way to manage stress, but so are activities like yoga and meditation.
Many people benefit from simple breathing exercises they can do at work or even during their daily commute. The key is to find a stress-busting activity that works for you, then stick with it.
7. Know your risk factors
Anyone can develop heart disease, but it is more common among people with certain risk factors, including:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Older age
- Being overweight or obese
- Poor diet high in unhealthy fats, salts, and sugars
- Sedentary lifestyle
Hormonal medicines, including birth control pills, may increase your blood pressure, as well.
8. Catch those Zs
The other seven items take a little effort, but getting more sleep is something we can all get on board with. Sleep is when your body repairs and restores itself. If you’re not getting enough good-quality sleep, it can take a toll on your heart. Poor sleep habits also increase the risk of developing high blood pressure and unwanted weight gain, two risk factors for heart problems.
Lifestyle changes play a big role in maintaining a healthy heart, and playing a more proactive role in your own health helps you feel more confident, too. To learn what else you can do to keep your heart healthy and how we can help, book an appointment online or over the phone with the team at Phoenix Heart today.