4 Simple Behaviors That Help Prevent Heart Attacks

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Having a healthy heart is crucial, considering that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that heart disease claims 600,000 lives in the United States each year, making it the leading cause of death for both men and women. And each year, 720,000 Americans have a heart attack.

Doctors will tell you that a healthy lifestyle can help you have and maintain a healthy heart, but up until now, there was no concrete evidence of the benefits of a heart-healthy life. A new decade-long study — consisting of more than 20,000 healthy Swedish men between the ages of 45 to 79 — published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology has managed to place a quantitative value on a healthy lifestyle to find that a good lifestyle can prevent four of five cardiovascular events in men.

And if you think a healthy lifestyle is too much of a commitment, consider this: The men in the study did not have to devote their lives to each and every healthy habit in order to see the positive health results. Every small change made by the Swedish men resulted in a reduced risk of a heart attack. For instance, just sticking to a heart-healthy diet and drinking in moderation decreased the risk of a heart attack by 35 percent; the risk further plummeted when men added more lifestyle changes.

Time magazine reports that “Men who don’t smoke and walked or cycled at least 40 minutes a day, exercised at least one hour a week, had a waist circumference under 37.4 inches, drank moderately, and ate a diet of fruits, veggies, legumes, nuts, reduced-fat dairy products, fish and whole grains had an 86% lower risk of heart attack than those with high-risk behaviors.”

If you’re looking to make simple changes in your lifestyle, check out the following four tips.

1. Exercise

Regular exercise is a great way to maintain your weight, keep your blood pressure in check, and have a healthy cholesterol level. The Surgeon General recommends that adults spend two hours and 30 minutes a week (that’s a half-hour workout five days a week) doing a moderate-intensity exercise.

2. Eat a healthy diet

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables is the easiest way to improve your diet. Apart from that, the CDC advises consuming foods that are “low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber [to] help prevent high blood cholesterol,” as well as “limiting salt or sodium in your diet [to] lower  blood pressure.”

3. Quit smoking

It’s no secret that smoking is terrible for your health, but a cigarette habit can also increase your risk of a heart attack. Similarly, quitting smoking can significantly reduce your risk of a coronary event. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, the chemicals found in tobacco harm your blood cells, blood vessels, and ultimately lead to plaque buildup and blockage.

4. Moderate alcohol intake

Yes, wine has been associated with a healthy heart, but it is imperative to moderate your alcohol intake to prevent a heart attack. A 2011 study, published in The Lancet, found that alcohol is a trigger for heart attacks. The Mayo Clinic says that moderate drinking means one drink per day for women of all ages and men older than 65, and up to two drinks per day for men 65 and younger.

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