Keep Your Heart Healthy: Tips for Reducing Risk of Heart Disease


Heart disease is a condition in which plaque begins to build and cause poor blood circulation. This can ultimately lead to heart complications or stroke. Heart disease takes over 600,000 lives each year in the U.S. alone, making it the leading cause of death. With 24% of all American deaths being linked to heart disease, it poses a real threat.

These statistics often lead to questions about your risk, your family's risk, and the preventative measures you can take. While some people are at higher risk for heart disease than others, there are steps that everyone can take to help keep their heart healthy.

With World Heart Day right around the corner on September 29, we want to equip you with the knowledge you need to fight heart disease. Read on to discover the causes linked to heart disease and the preventative steps you can take reduce your risk and live your best life.

Heart Disease Risk Factors

Heart disease is often thought to be synonymous with cardiovascular disease. However, there are many different types of heart disease, including blood vessel disease, inflammation of the heart, and arrhythmia. Research has found there are three main causes of heart disease: hypertension, high cholesterol, and smoking. You can reduce risk for heart disease by taking measures to prevent conditions like hypertension and high cholesterol.

There is quite a bit of overlap between hypertension and high cholesterol. Hypertension is defined as blood pressure that is higher than recommended. Hypertension has many causes, including smoking, obesity, high sodium intake, alcohol abuse, and stress. On the other hand, high cholesterol occurs when there is a vast increase of cholesterol in the blood. This can lead to the development of fatty deposits in the vessel, which hinders blood flow. Very similar to hypertension, high cholesterol has been linked to smoking, obesity, stress, and a lack of exercise.

Reducing the Risk of Heart Disease

Reducing the risk of heart disease is all about being heart smart. Through knowledge, dedication, and action, we can decrease our chances of developing heart disease.

Your heart is a hard-working organ, and it's important to take care of it. Lifestyle factors play a significant role in this. A few areas to focus on are:

  • Maintain a Healthy Diet

    "You are what you eat." A healthy diet not only helps give the body the energy it needs, but it also contributes to a healthier heart. Eating fresh fruit, vegetables, and whole grains, and limiting sodium, added sugars, saturated and trans fats, and alcohol can be beneficial. The U.S. Health & Human Services website offers several programs and resources focusing on nutrition.

  • Stop Smoking

    Smoking is a leading factor in both hypertension and high cholesterol. This is because smoking cigarettes can narrow blood vessels and harm their walls, making them prone to accumulating fatty deposits. Cutting back or quitting smoking is another step towards a healthier heart.

  • Exercise Regularly

    Exercise has many benefits. It helps you achieve and maintain a healthy weight, gives the body more energy, and improves the performance of the heart. Your heart is a muscle, and cardiovascular exercise will help to make it stronger and healthier. No gym membership? No problem. Many routines can be done at home, and partaking in recreational sports is a great way to exercise the mind and body while having fun.

  • Limit Stress

    High stress can have an impact on both the body and the mind, and the heart is no exception — high blood pressure and unhealthy habits can result from sustained stress levels. Fortunately, there are many mobile apps dedicated to stress reduction that can help. In addition, relaxation techniques like exercise, therapy, and even your favorite hobby can help you deal with stressful situations. Taking measures to reduce stress has many benefits, including higher quality of sleep, mood improvement, and increased energy.

  • Monitor your Health

    Regularly monitoring vital signs can ensure you are on top of your own health. For heart disease in particular, keep an eye on risk factors like BMI, cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure. It's also important to visit your doctor regularly. Annual visits help to identify anything you may have missed and prevent a serious issue before it escalates.

    According to MedlinePlus, symptoms such as chest pain, ankle swelling, palpitations, fatigue, and shortness of breath are causes for concern. If you fear that you may have heart disease, following up with a medical professional is always recommended.

Living with Heart Disease

Unfortunately, some risk factors for heart disease can't be controlled. Age, sex, ethnic background, and family history all impact your likelihood of having heart disease. And although you can't change all risk factors, there are steps you can take to help cope with this condition.

If you have heart disease and are at high risk of sudden cardiac death, you should know your options. For example, wearable cardioverter defibrillators (WCD) can help protect you by identifying a potentially dangerous heart rhythm and delivering a shock if necessary. In addition, following a healthy heart lifestyle can help prevent your condition from escalating.

Final Thoughts

Caring for your heart is easier than you may think. Healthy habits tend to have a domino effect, and a well-rounded healthy lifestyle can aid in your fight against heart disease. Both the short- and long-term effects of adopting healthier habits are clearly worth the effort.

Are you heart smart?

For this year's World Heart Day, make it your mission to become a heart hero. Learn what you can do to protect yourself and your loved ones at the World Heart Federation.