While adults today are living longer, heart disease remains the No. 1 cause of death. Each year, heart disease claims the lives of more than 650,000 people in the United States, often without warning. For many people, a heart attack is the first sign of heart disease.
At CA Heart and Vein Specialists, your cardiovascular health is our top priority. Board-certified cardiovascular physician Majed Chane, MD, specializes in diagnosing and treating heart and vascular conditions. In addition to providing comprehensive cardiovascular care, Dr. Chane wants patients to know that prevention is the best way to protect your heart.
And most heart attacks are preventable. There are real ways to significantly reduce your risk. In this post, we explain what you can do to cut your risk of having a heart attack.
Adopt a heart-healthy diet
Adopting a heart-healthy diet accounts for an 18% reduction in heart attack risk. Such a diet encompasses a regular eating pattern that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fatty fish, and low-fat dairy.
Along with adding good foods you should get plenty of, you also promote heart health by limiting your intake of saturated fats. Processed foods including processed meats, fats and oils including butter and mayonnaise, and full fat dairy are the most common sources of saturated fat in the typical American diet.
Keep an eye on your waistline
Visceral fat, which is the fat that wraps around your abdominal organs, is strongly linked to heart attack risk. The greater your waistline, the greater your risk for heart disease.
Losing weight is the most effective way to reduce visceral fat. Maintaining a waistline of 37 inches or less if you’re male and 35 inches or less if you’re a woman is associated with a 12% reduction in heart attack risk.
Fortunately, habits that promote heart health, such as eating a healthy diet and exercising, also promote weight loss.
Move your body
Getting regular exercise lowers your chances of having a heart attack. Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise is best for your heart. Getting at least 30 minutes a day of aerobic activity on most days is enough to slash your heart attack risk.
What’s more, a gym membership isn’t necessary. A half-hour of brisk walking is enough to protect your heart. The benefit remains the same if you break up that amount into two 15-minute sessions or three 10-minute sessions.
Limit alcohol consumption
A glass of wine or beer on occasion is unlikely to harm your health, but if you imbibe too often, you’re hiking up your heart attack risk. If you do drink, moderating your intake to avoid drinking too much lowers your chances of having a heart attack. Specifically, drinking fewer than two alcoholic drinks per day is linked to an 11% reduction in heart attack risk.
Keep your cholesterol under control
High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart attack. Keeping your cholesterol within a target range promotes heart health.
Aim for a total cholesterol level below 200 mg/dL to protect your heart. Keep your LDL — a harmful form of cholesterol — below 100 mg/dL if you’re at average risk or below 70 mg/dl if you have heart or blood vessel disease or other factors that put you at risk of a heart attack.
Losing weight and adopting a heart-healthy diet are effective ways to lower your cholesterol.
Maintain a healthy blood pressure
As with elevated cholesterol, high blood pressure is a primary risk factor for heart attack. Over time, hypertension damages and weakens your blood vessels and damages the heart muscle, setting the stage for a heart attack.
Keeping your blood pressure within a normal range keeps you out of the danger zone when it comes to heart attack risk.
Don’t smoke / quit smoking
You can reduce your risk of a heart attack by 36% by not smoking. If you currently smoke and have tried to quit without success in the past, talk to Dr. Chane about resources and medication that can help you break the habit.
It’s never too late to prioritize your heart health. Regardless of your existing risk factors, you can take steps to tilt the scales in favor of improved heart health. To learn more about protecting your heart and for all of your heart and vascular needs, call our office in Huntington Beach, California, or request an appointment online.