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Having a healthy heart is pivotal, as heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. This is especially important once you get into your 30s, as heart disease risk increases with age.
As a primary care doctor, I help patients prevent heart disease by monitoring their risk factors, such as cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and weight. That’s why it’s important to have a primary care doctor you see annually, and often, if something is bothering you. I also provide my patients with key lifestyle tips to help them maintain healthy hearts—I’ll share four of my most effective tips here.
#HeartDisease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Discover four ways Dr. Fernando Porter says you can improve your #HeartHealth today. Learn more via @MedStarHealth’s #LiveWellHealthy blog.Click to Tweet
Key Ways to Improve Heart Health
People who smoke are two to four times more likely to develop both heart disease and stroke than nonsmokers. This is because smoking can cause high blood pressure, reduce blood flow from the heart and to the brain, and harm blood vessels. Even smoking fewer than five cigarettes a day can result in early signs of heart disease. If you have trouble quitting, speak to your primary care doctor about smoking cessation programs in your area, which provide resources, such as support groups and therapy to help you become smoke-free.
Follow a Healthy Diet
You can boost your heart health by eating a diet that is low in sodium. This is because consuming too much salt causes you to retain excess water, which can raise blood pressure and put more strain on the heart and arteries. Try to keep track of how much salt you’re consuming, and don’t consume more than 2,300 milligrams (mg) a day. The Mediterranean diet is one diet that can help you avoid excess sodium—it avoids processed foods and focuses on lower sodium foods, such as:
- Whole grains
Exercising is a great way to maintain a healthy heart, as it reduces risk factors, such as high blood pressure, bad cholesterol levels, and obesity. I always recommend that patients exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. And if you don’t enjoy going for a jog or being at the gym, one study found that everyday activities like gardening reduce heart attack and stroke risk by 30 percent for people over the age of 60.
Get Plenty of Rest
Let’s face it: A good night’s sleep makes us all feel better the next day. But getting a good night’s sleep is also critical to heart health, as it can reduce blood pressure and stress levels and contributes to the healing and repairing of your heart and blood vessels. Make sure you’re attempting to get seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. When sleep is interrupted, it disrupts your natural sleeping pattern, resulting in a lack of deep, restorative sleep. There are many tools out there, such as fitness trackers and smartwatches, that can monitor your sleep patterns.
Snoring can decrease the restfulness of your sleep and is a significant symptom of obstructive sleep apnea, which is associated with high blood pressure, stroke, and heart failure. Make sure to speak to a doctor if you snore during the night.
What if I Have a Family History of Heart Disease?
Your family’s history of heart disease can play an important role in your heart health. I saw one patient whose father had a heart attack at age 55, so we made sure to explain the importance of lifestyle modifications to ensure his heart was as healthy as possible. It’s important to remember that having a family history of heart disease doesn’t mean you’re sure to develop it—especially if you have a healthy lifestyle.
Maintaining a healthy heart is essential to living a long, healthy life. Use the above tips to improve or maintain your heart health and reach out to your primary care doctor if you have any questions. If you’d like to learn more about how your primary care doctor can help improve your heart health, click below to watch our Facebook Live discussion with Dr. Fernando Porter.