Don't Skip a Beat: 5 Habits to Kick for a Healthier Heart

Family history, high blood pressure, obesity and older age – you may already know the major risk factors for heart disease. But did you know that certain everyday lifestyle choices can contribute to an increased risk for heart problems in the future? Read on to learn five habits to kick for a healthier heart.

1. Smoking

Most people associate smoking with serious health problems, a chronic cough and life-threatening lung cancer. However, smoking is also one of the leading risk factors for heart disease. In fact, compared to nonsmokers, smoking is estimated to increase the risk of coronary heart disease by two to four times. Those who do not smoke, but are exposed to secondhand smoke, are also at risk for heart disease. Secondhand smoke exposure causes an estimated 46,000 premature deaths from heart disease in the United States each year. If you do not already smoke, don’t start, and if you do, find the resources and support to quit.

2. Sleeping Too Little

Studies show that people who tend to get less than six hours of sleep each night are more likely develop heart disease. Sleeping too little can adversely affect the heart by elevating blood pressure and levels of stress hormones. In addition to carving out at least eight hours of sleep per night, if you snore and often wake up feeling tired, talk with your doctor; there are easy ways to screen for obstructive sleep apnea, a common sleep disorder that has been identified as a possible risk factor for heart disease.

3. Making (Too Many) Fast Food Runs

Consuming high levels of sugar, trans fat and sodium are considered a cardiovascular “no-no,” and a common source of these artery-clogging ingredients is the processed food ordered off menus at our favorite fast food restaurants. While fast food restaurants can be incorporated into a healthy diet through healthy choices and moderation, limiting the amount of times you eat out each week can save you money and your heart-health in the long run.

4. Leaving Stress Unmanaged

It’s common to feel stress and anxiety throughout different seasons of life. However, when left unmanaged, high levels of stress and anxiety can lead to increased risk for heart disease over time.  Managing stress is a good idea for your overall health, but especially for your heart. Exercising, eating healthy, quitting smoking and learning to say, “no” are great ways to control your stress and reduce your risk factors for heart disease. If you experience chronic stress, anxiety or depression, speak with your doctor to learn about resources and mental health support services that can help.

5. Avoiding Your Doctor

Let’s face it; in the hustle and bustle of life, it can be easy to skip out on routine doctor appointments to make time for other commitments. But ignoring your body’s warning signs can lead to serious, long-term consequences for your heart. In addition to scheduling your annual physical and preventative screenings, contact your doctor if you notice any unusual symptoms that are not typical of how you normally feel. Through early detection and treatment of heart disease, allowing your doctor to monitor important heart-health markers has the power to save your life.

Reduce Your Risk for Heart Disease with UnityPoint Health – Trinity

UnityPoint Health – Trinity is the leading provider of cardiovascular care in the Quad Cities. Dedicated to heart disease prevention, diagnosis and treatment, our team of experienced cardiologists provides comprehensive heart care for people of all ages and walks of life. To learn more about your own risk factors for heart disease, take our online HeartAware Risk Assessment today.

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