Reduce your risk of heart disease

Four Steps to a healthy heart

Heart disease kills more people than anything else. One out of every three of us will die because of heart disease. What’s the single most important thing we can do to reduce our heart disease risk? A friend of mine at Norton Women’s Heart and Vascular Center says it’s to stop smoking.

1. If you smoke, stop

Theresa Byrd, R.N., BSN, who is the clinical coordinator of the center, says smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Smoking certainly affects the lungs and is linked to cancer, but it also leads to a buildup of fatty substances in our arteries, which decreases oxygen to the heart.

2. Exercise    

Theresa says the second most important thing to do to reduce our risk of heart disease is to exercise. She says, “Exercise helps lower blood pressure, reduce weight, prevent diabetes, lower cholesterol, build muscle and bones, and reduce stress.” Does that mean you have to go out and run marathons? No! Thirty minutes each day is enough to improve your heart health.

3. Eat Healthy

Third on Theresa’s list of steps to reduce heart disease risk is to eat heart-healthy. She recommends plenty of fruits and vegetables, and more fiber, omega 3’s and lean proteins. Foods to avoid: fast food, salt and trans fats.

4. Reduce Stress     

Finally, reduce stress. I think we’ve become conditioned to expect that stress is just part of life. Not so according to Theresa. She told me, “Manage your stress in a healthy way, such as meditation, deep breathing exercises or being with friends and laughing.”

“Laughter,” she said, “is one of the best medicines.” She also recommends reading lighthearted fiction or watching fun movies. Theresa says you earn “bonus points” by getting enough sleep and smiling at yourself each morning. You don’t have to tackle all these steps at one time. Just start at the top and work your way down. Whatever changes you can make, you’re absolutely guaranteed to reduce your heart disease risk. Take an online heart disease risk assessment at: nortonhealthcare.com/heartassessment