While it’s no secret that heart disease is incredibly common – and deadly – knowing the key ways to prevent heart disease may not come quite as easily. Outside of not smoking and avoiding salty, fatty foods, what does living a heart-healthy lifestyle really mean?
“The truth is, being heart healthy doesn’t usually involve drastic lifestyle changes or something revolutionary,” says Ryan Whitney, MD, FACC, non-invasive cardiologist and president of Georgia Heart Institute. “It all comes down to consistency; making smart, intentional decisions day in and day out – no matter how big or small – that’s what has the biggest impact over time.”
Whether you’ve been diagnosed with heart disease or not, living a heart-healthy lifestyle is crucial for everyone. In addition to helping prevent heart disease, some of these behaviors can actually help to reverse early stages of the disease and limit risk factors, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Make sure you add these 5 cardiologist-approved tips to your daily routine to support heart health and prevent disease:
Heart Disease Prevention Tip 1: Focus on Activity vs. Exercise
We all know that exercise is extremely important for heart health, but how are you supposed to find the time? Ideally, you would get at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week; however, if you can’t make that work, don’t give up on being active completely.
“It can be extremely difficult to dedicate a chunk of time to exercise specifically, but I’ve found that breaking up activity into smaller spurts throughout the day makes a big difference,” says Dr. Whitney. “Try taking multiple 5- to 10-minute breaks throughout the day to stretch your legs, especially after meals, and that will help to support heart health.”
Heart Disease Prevention Tip 2: Eat Smarter
While most people know that fast foods or pre-packaged foods aren’t necessarily healthy foods, the convenience factor can make them an attractive option. Over time, opting for the fast and easy option, rather than the nutritious option, can take a big toll on heart health.
However, when it comes to the heart-healthy foods you should be eating, there isn’t necessarily a one-size fits all.
“Personally, I’m less focused on the specific foods I eat each day; instead, I try to focus on either key factors related to diet,” explains Dr. Whitney. “For instance, when you eat [time of day] and how much you eat [portions] can be just as important as the foods themselves. When in doubt, I focus on balanced meals that contain a lean protein, whole grains and fresh produce – and eating food you’ve prepared yourself is almost always better than eating out.”
Heart Disease Prevention Tip 3: Prioritize Getting Enough Sleep
Sleep does the body good—and that includes the heart! Not getting enough sleep can take a major toll on mental health and well-being, spurring on feelings of irritability and an inability to focus, along with more serious physical effects. A lack of sleep can actually increase your risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes and more.
“Just because sleep is important doesn’t mean that it always comes easily,” notes Dr. Whitney. “To promote a good night’s sleep, I stick to a routine – going to bed and waking up at the same time – along with minimizing other factors that can make restful sleep difficult, like exercising or eating too close to bed time.”
Heart Disease Prevention Tip 4: Find Healthy Ways to Manage Stress
Stress is interesting to consider. A small amount of stress is totally normal, and it can actually be a positive, motivating you to complete a project or task.
But too much stress—or stress that becomes chronic—can wreak havoc on your health, including your heart. While it’s not realistic to completely eliminate stress from your life, you can improve how you manage it.
“When it comes to stress relief, you really have to find what works for you,” explains Dr. Whitney. “For me, spending time with family and friends is a huge stress reliever, along with making time for hobbies I enjoy. For others, mediating, journaling or spending time in nature may be the most effective way to unwind.”
Heart Disease Prevention Tip 5: Take Care of Your Teeth
This might seem like a strange tip, but it’s really important for your heart! There’s a surprising connection between diminished oral health and poor heart health.
“Poor dental health increases the risk of an infection entering your bloodstream, which can have a negative effect on your heart valves,” says Dr. Whitney. “Beyond that, those with gum disease are two to three times more likely to have a heart attack, stroke or heart health event. No matter if I’m tired or feel like I don’t have extra time, I take the time to brush my teeth and floss – it has to be a part of your routine.”
Heart Care To Love
At Georgia Heart Institute, there’s so much to love about the exceptional care our dedicated team of more than 80 cardiologists and advanced practice providers offer. In addition to providing personalized care, our team of experts is works to ensure happier, healthier tomorrows. This goes beyond our comprehensive spectrum of services and leading approach to care to ensure you have the tools and resources you need to lead a healthy life every day. Schedule your appointment online today!