How to Help Protect Yourself Against Heart Disease

Heart disease describes a variety of conditions ranging from narrowing of the blood vessels to heart defects. While not all forms of the disease can be prevented, various lifestyle changes can help safeguard your heart and health. Learn how to help protect yourself against heart disease for a positive step toward a healthy, active future.

Diet

A proper diet helps those who want to prevent heart disease, and it is essential for people who are managing existing symptoms. While many focus on what they shouldn't eat, it's just as important to incorporate the good foods. Doctors promote a healthful diet that consists of fruits and vegetables, while foods low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium are promoted to help control weight. WebMD encourages people to eat more whole grains and legumes and to drink 32 to 64 ounces of water daily. The Mayo Clinic also recommends that you eat a serving or two of fish each week.

Exercise

Regular exercise is known to reduce high blood pressure, control blood sugar levels and lower body weight. WebMD explains that "the human body was meant to be active. Exercise strengthens the heart muscle." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that adults should aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise at a moderate intensity on most days of the week.

Alcohol and tobacco

Alcohol and tobacco also contribute to heart disease. Quitting smoking and limiting alcohol use helps lower your risk for heart disease, the CDC says. Excessive consumption of alcohol can lead to high blood pressure, and nicotine found in cigarettes causes your heart to work harder. If you smoke, the Mayo Clinic says that quitting is the main way to reduce risk of heart disease and its complications.

Stress

Findings from research by Harvard Medical School show there is a link between heart disease and job stress in women. The findings state that those with highly stressful jobs have a 40 percent higher risk for heart disease. The results, which were presented in 2010 at an American Heart Association meeting, suggest this could be due to how the body reacts to stress, including increasing breathing rates and prompting blood pressure changes. The research also suggests that stress can make it more difficult to practice heart-healthy habits, such as following a good diet and exercise plan, avoiding smoking and getting the right amount of sleep.

Although it is difficult to prevent stress, there are ways to alter how stress affects your life. The Mayo Clinic recommends finding and practicing techniques such as muscle relaxation and deep breathing to help manage stress when it builds up.

Diabetes

The risk of heart disease increases for people who are overweight. According to the Mayo Clinic, women with a waist measurement of 35 inches or more are more likely to develop heart disease and diabetes. Statistics provided by Johns Hopkins Medicine show that about 80 percent of people with Type 2 diabetes develop or die of complications from heart disease and other conditions that affect blood vessels. A lifestyle change helps reduce your risk of diabetes and can protect you from developing heart disease in the first place.

© 2014 Life123, Inc. All rights reserved. An IAC Company