February 8, 2018

by Mankato Clinic

Our hearts work beat by beat, second by second for 24 hours a day, never resting. Over the average lifetime, our hearts beats about 2.5 billion times. Knowing that it’s one of the most vital organs keeping us alive, it’s important to treat it like the precious commodity it is.

The number one cause of death among women and men, heart disease claims approximately one million lives per year. Heart disease conditions emerge when plaque, which is made of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances in the blood, builds up inside the coronary arteries which supply oxygen-rich blood to the heart muscles. When plaque builds up, it restricts blood flow to the heart’s chambers, which can lead to heart attack, sudden cardiac death and stroke.

While the statistics are eye-opening, the good news is that simple lifestyle changes can help you avoid, or even slow down, heart-related problems. Making positive changes in one of the following seven areas can have one of the biggest impacts on your heart health. They include: losing weight/maintaining a healthy weight, eating healthy, staying active, managing blood pressure, reducing blood sugar, quitting smoking and controlling cholesterol.

When done alone or combined, making positive changes in any of above seven areas can make a drastic difference in your health.

The more you know about your health the more power you have to stay healthy. High cholesterol and high blood pressure can damage your blood vessels and heart. See your healthcare provider at least once per year for regular health screenings that will tell test your blood pressure, cholesterol levels and blood sugar numbers. To find out if you are at risk for heart disease or diabetes, take the Know More Heart Health assessments at Mankato-clinic.com/risk-assessments.

In addition to incorporating more healthy habits in to your life, eat a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains to help protect your heart. Aim to eat beans, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, fish and lean meats, and avoid too much salt and sugars in your diet. Because fats can have a negative impact on your LDL or “bad” cholesterol, try to avoid saturated fats and trans fats.

By losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight, you significantly reduce your risk of diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

It can be hard to break bad habits like eating better or not getting the recommended 30 hours a day of moderate exercise. In fact, it takes 60-90 days to create a new habit. Learning simple tips to kick your bad habits and replace them with heart-healthy habits can be as easy as following these four steps:

  • Break a bigger goal into smaller, short-term goals: Whether you want to decrease your sugar consumption or sleep seven to eight hours a night because you know it’s important for your heart, don’t do it cold turkey. By easing yourself in to your new, healthier routine, you will see the benefits and feel more motivated toward your longer-term goal.
  • Confide in someone you trust: Be it a spouse, sibling, friend or coworker, confiding in someone you trust will help you reach your goals. Having a confidant while making lifestyle changes will help you remain accountable for your actions
  • Make small exercise changes: Start your workouts with low intensity by going slow, working up your stamina and building muscle and flexibility. By not starting out too aggressively, you’re more likely to stick with your program until you reach your end-goal.

Understanding the risk factors and ailments associated with heart disease is an important step to take to prevent yourself, or your loved ones, from becoming a statistic of the disease. One of the most important things to remember is that a healthy lifestyle, especially when started at a young age, is proven to go a long way to prevent heart disease.