As with other chronic diseases, heart disease requires lifelong management. Making heart healthy changes in your daily life remains the single most effective way to stop the disease from progressing. If you have already survived a heart attack, adopting better lifestyle habits can reduce the risk of another one.
Follow these life-saving heart health tips:
Commit to eating a heart healthy diet. Eating a low-fat diet and watching your salt intake can help you manage heart disease. Load up on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, fish, fiber and lean poultry and meat. Ask your health care team about the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet, one strategy for lowering high blood pressure.
Step it up. Regular physical activity can do wonders for improving heart function, controlling your weight, lowering high blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It can also prevent depression and minimize stress. Thirty-minutes of moderate exercise daily is associated with lower death rates from heart disease. Go for a brisk walk, ride a bike, garden or swim. Before you get moving, talk with your doctor about what types and duration of exercise are best for you.
Watch your weight. Excess body fat forces your heart to work harder and can worsen heart disease. Shedding even a small amount of weight can make a big difference. Losing weight may reduce cardiovascular risk by controlling high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol levels, and diabetes. The best way to lose weight is through a combination of diet and exercise.
Stop smoking and avoid second hand smoke. Smoking can damage your heart and blood vessels. People who smoke also have a tendency towards blood clots and high blood pressure. Quitting dramatically cuts the risk to your heart, even within the first year.
Reduce stress. Learn to recognize signs of stress in your life andpracticelowering stress levels with meditation, yoga, or rhythmic breathing. Regular exercise is a great stress buster too.
Making lifestyle changes isn’t easy. It requires discipline, patience and support from those around you. Remember to:
• Set realistic goals and map out a plan that you can follow.
• Make one change at a time.
• Know there will be good days and bad, so don’t beat yourself up or overdo it.
• Share your goals with family and friends; they will support you.
• Seek out support groups to share tips and personal experiences with other women like you.