Heart to Heart: Tips to Prevent Heart Disease

Ever notice how many cereal commercials emphasize the product’s ability to “boost hearth health” or “lower cholesterol”? For those of us who are young or haven’t had a history with poor cholesterol or high blood pressure, it’s easy to ignore heart health, but statistics show that heart disease is the leading cause of death in America for both men and women. That grim (but convincing) statistic aside, there are plenty of ways that you can keep that ticker happy for many years to come.

 

A HEARTy Diet

            So what exactly makes all those cereals so heart healthy? Whole grains. Whole grains contain large amounts of fiber, which helps to maintain healthy blood pressure. An easy way to add some more fiber to your yogurt or oatmeal is with flax seeds or flaxseed oil. Not only is this tiny superfood high in fiber, it also contains omega-3 fatty acids, both of which help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

            In addition, certain fats should be limited to maintain a healthy heart. Saturated fats, most commonly found in red meats and dairy products, should be limited to 7% of your daily caloric intake. Trans fats should make up less than 1% of your daily caloric intake. These are found mostly in margarine and butter, fried foods, and some packaged snacks. Limiting these unhealthy fats is easy. First, check your favorite snacks for these fats and, if they are high in saturated or trans fats, find a healthier alternative. When baking or cooking, try to use olive or canola oil in place of butter. Talk to your doctor about what other diet tweaks you should be making based on your cholesterol and blood pressure.

 

Get Screened Regularly

            Limiting your doctor visits to when you feel sick won’t cut it. You can’t feel high blood pressure or bad cholesterol until they have affected your heart and blood vessels. So don’t wait until it’s too late! At a minimum, adults should get their blood pressure checked once every two years and their cholesterol checked once every five years. If your numbers aren’t perfect, your doctor may ask you to get checked more frequently.

            Diabetes is another major cause of heart disease, not to mention a great deal of other problems the condition can cause if gone unnoticed. Beginning as early as age 30, you should be screened every 3 to 5 years. Again, your doctor may recommend more frequent visits if you are overweight or have a family history of the disease.

 

There’s an App for that

            These days, you can find an app for just about anything. While some are entirely pointless, like inserting pictures of cats into your photos, others can save your life. Healthy Heart 2 is free app that allows you to track your blood pressure, pulse, diet, stress, and many other factors that may affect your heart health. Documenting this information can help your doctor better identify causes of sicknesses, what medications work for you, and what lifestyle changes might help to improve your heart health. 

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