Table of Contents
Mark A. Mahoney
As we come to the final day of January 2023 it seems prudent to focus on working on a new year’s resolution to maintain healthy habits and perhaps acquire some others which can lead to a better quality of life — both in our physical as well as our mental health.
Today’s society necessitates that we focus on a healthier lifestyle to better address all the challenges of life.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. About 697,000 people in the United States died from heart disease in 2020 — that’s 1 in every 5 deaths. Fortunately, it is largely preventable and there are many things people can do to reduce their risk.
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Although certain types of heart disease, such as heart defects, can’t be prevented, you can help prevent many other types of heart disease by making the same lifestyle changes that may also improve your heart disease, such as:
- Eating a healthy diet. (low in salt and saturated fats)
- Maintaining a healthy weight.
- Getting enough physical activity.
- Not smoking or using other forms of tobacco.
- Limiting alcohol use to a minimum.
By living a healthy lifestyle, you can help keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar normal and lower your risk for heart disease and heart attack. A healthy lifestyle includes the following:
1. Healthy diet
Choosing healthful meal and snack options can help you avoid heart disease and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods.
Eating foods low in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high cholesterol. Limiting salt (sodium) in your diet also can lower your blood pressure. Limiting sugar in your diet can lower you blood sugar level to prevent or help control diabetes.
Consulting a nutrition professional (Registered Dietitian or Nutritionist, RDN), if needed, can assist in your effort to consume a healthy diet. In addition, accessing science-based websites can also be of benefit.
2. Healthy weight
Being overweight or obese increases your risk for heart disease. To determine if your weight is in a healthy range, doctors or other qualified health professionals often calculate your body mass index (BMI).. If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI at CDC’s Assessing Your Weight website at cdc.gov/healthyweight.
Qualified health professional including Registered Dietitians and Nutritionists (RDNs) often include waist and hip measurements to calculate excess body fat. They may use special equipment to calculate excess body fat and hydration status. Check out the following link for an explanation on the importance of measuring waist circumference hsph.harvard.edu/obesity-prevention.
3. Physical activity
Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, and sugar levels. Each week adults need 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity and 2 days of muscle strengthening activity, according to the current Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans (2nd edition).For more information on physical activity basics go to the CDC website at cdc.gov/physicalactivity.
4. No smoking
Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Your doctor and other qualified health care professionals can suggest ways to help you quit and/or orient you to appropriate information and material resources.
5. Limited alcohol
A July 2022 study published in The Lancet confirms that for people ages 15 to 39 years, there is no health benefit to drinking alcohol, only risks. Research suggests that people under 40 who consume unsafe amounts of alcohol may face elevated health risks and that even less than 1 drink per day may be harmful to health.
New research has come out recently with guidelines from Canada on reduced alcohol consumption. However, the bottom line to keep in mind is, no matter what level you drink at, that consuming less will be good for health.
Stress, other health conditions and hygiene
In addition, reducing and managing stress, controlling other health conditions, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes, and practicing good hygiene will go a long way toward helping in preventing heart disease.
Hopefully, this overview (and accompanying links) will provide some “food for thought” and allow readers to look at their own lifestyles and help lead to acquiring healthier habits through a proactive approach to a healthier life.
Mark A. Mahoney, Ph.D. has been a Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist for over 35 years and completed graduate studies in Nutrition & Public Health at Columbia University. He can be reached at [email protected]