While some people are certainly predisposed to particular diseases, others may suffer from an illness based on outside factors, such as environment and physical health. In the U.S. alone, about 610,000 people die of heart disease each year. With these alarming statistics, you probably want to do everything possible to ensure you’re at the lowest possible risk.
We spoke with Dr. Allan Stewart, director of aortic surgery and co-director of the Valve Center at The Mount Sinai Hospital, to learn more. According to Stewart, “Smoking, obesity, sedentary people, folks with high blood pressure or poorly controlled diabetes can increase the risk of heart disease.”
Here’s how to reduce your risk.
It’s common knowledge that we all need exercise to live a healthy lifestyle, but the key is getting the right amount of exercise for an adequate amount of time. “The goal here is 30 minutes of aerobic exercise, at least four days a week,” Stewart said. “I tell my patients all the time, the most important feature on any piece of exercise equipment is the On/Off switch! Sorry, to all of you golfers, the goal here is sustained heart rate elevation. Golfing is not aerobic exercise.” Whatever kind of exercise you swear by, just make sure you’re getting your heart rate up.
2. Limit alcohol consumption
Stewart recommends keeping your alcohol consumption to no more than two glasses per day. “Much has been written about the cardioprotective effects of red wine,” Stewart said. “However, the adage of ‘if a little benefit is good, more must be better’ does not hold true! More than two glasses of wine per day increases the risk of fatty liver, obesity, and diabetes.”
3. Lose weight
Of course losing weight should help in preventing heart attacks later in life, seeing as a person’s weight plays a huge factor in overall health. “Look around. There are not a lot of obese 80-year-olds. They are all dead,” Stewart said. “Why, because obesity is a fatal disease. The fat you see on your mid-section is also all around the heart and can affect its function.”
4. Quit smoking
If you’ve not yet quit smoking, you deserve a wake-up call. “If you are a smoker, this is the greatest gift you can give yourself and will extend years on your life,” Stewart said of cutting smoking out of your life for good. Not to mention, you’ll feel better on a daily basis, and probably be able to do things with far more ease.
5. Eat the right foods
Food is your body’s fuel, so it’s important to make sure you’re getting all the best to ensure your body is running at its peak performance. Stewart recommends eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Fiber is one of the keys to heart health, and these foods all provide a whopping dose.
6. Keep up with annual doctor’s visits
Though you might consider yourself a healthy adult and swear off the doctor at all costs unless absolutely necessary, annual check-ups are important, and definitely worth both your time and money. “See your doctor at least once a year and follow your cholesterol, blood pressure, and glucose. Take your medicines if they are prescribed. Lowering your cholesterol, controlling your blood pressure, and reducing your glucose levels will make your heart healthy,” Stewart said.
7. Consider a baby aspirin
Stewart also recommends men above the age of 40 should consider a baby aspirin (81 milligrams), but of course, discuss any new drug regimen with your doctor first.