February is American Heart Month which is a perfect reminder of why a healthy lifestyle is extremely important. It’s easy to get caught up in solely the aesthetic benefits of working out and eating healthy, but the benefits go beyond solely appearance. According to the CDC, in 2018, life expectancy increased and heart related deaths slightly dropped. However, heart disease still remains as America’s leading cause of death.
Controllable factors that increase your risk of heart disease are:
-High LDL (the bad cholesterol)
-Low HDL (the good cholesterol)
-Lack of physical activity
-High Blood Pressure (that is not under control)
Other risk factors that are less in our control include:
Of course you can’t escape aging, your genes were not created under your own master plan and if you happen to be born a male it is out of your control. However, if you focus on the controllable factors by implementing healthy lifestyle habits, you can take substantial ownership over your heart health to ensure you lower your risk of heart disease and/or stroke as much as possible.
Controllable behaviors that can lower your risk of heart disease:
-Physical activity; This will help in ensuring you stay at a healthy body weight which already decreases your risk. This healthy weight will decrease your risk of other risk factors including high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. Hopefully reading that makes you realize that exercise is a no-brainer in terms of limiting your heart disease risk.
-Stress; Keeping your stress under control will aid in keeping blood pressure low. High stress situations, in some cases, can also trigger a heart attack. Many unhealthy habits follow stress such as drug/alcohol addiction and emotional eating. Focus on activities that you enjoy and keep your brain calm and ensure you add them into your schedule regularly.
-Healthy diet; Limiting saturated fats and added sugars can help keep blood pressure and cholesterol low. Alongside eating fresh foods and whole grains, avoiding/limiting alcohol will have substantial benefit on your heart health.Too much alcohol can lead to increased blood pressure and also increased risk of obesity. Alcohol is calorically dense and too much easily results in weight gain.Men should limit two drinks a day and women should limit themselves to one drink a day. For more information on appropriate alcohol intake, refer to our past blog article “Living an Active Lifestyle While Enjoying Alcohol”.
It’s quite easy to see how all of your behaviors, whether healthy or unhealthy, all directly relate to heart health. By simply living a balanced and healthy lifestyle, with easily controllable behaviors, you can increase your longevity and quality of life. Who wouldn’t want that? The next time you complain about how much you hate having to exercise or having to skip out on eating out in exchange for a healthy at home meal, remember how important your life is. Many people who have suffered from heart attacks or strokes are extremely grateful for the life they have and make the changes necessary to avoid experiencing another traumatic heart incident. You can do the same!