16 May 2012

5 Tips to Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease

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  1. Maintain a healthy weight. As you put on weight in adulthood, your weight gain is mostly fat rather than muscle. This excess weight can lead to conditions that increase your chances of heart disease — high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. One way to see if your weight is healthy is to calculate your body mass index (BMI), which considers your height and weight in determining whether you have a healthy or unhealthy percentage of body fat.
  2. Get regular health screenings. Blood pressure – Regular blood pressure screenings start in childhood. Adults should have their blood pressure checked at least every two years. Cholesterol levels – Adults should have their cholesterol measured at least once every five years starting at age 20. You may need more frequent testing if your numbers aren’t optimal or if you have other risk factors for heart disease. Diabetes screening – Since diabetes is a risk factor for developing heart disease, you may want to consider being screened for diabetes.
  3. Follow a healthful diet, eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, which can help protect your heart. Beans, other low-fat sources of protein and certain types of fish also can reduce your risk of heart disease.
  4. Avoid cigarette smoking. Smoking or using tobacco is one of the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease. Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels, leading to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis can ultimately lead to a heart attack.
  5. Get 30 minutes of aerobic activity at least 3 times per week. Physical activity helps you control your weight and can reduce your chances of developing other conditions that may put a strain on your heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. It also reduces stress, which may be a factor in heart disease. Try getting at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week. However, even shorter amounts of exercise offer heart benefits, so if you can’t meet those guidelines, don’t give up.

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