Love Your Heart a Lifetime

4 Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease

By Samantha Ellis, MS, QMHA, Luke-Dorf Health Educator

We know that heart disease is bad, but do we know why the National Heart Awareness Month is such a big deal? The Center for Disease and Control shared that heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, with almost 610,000 people dying annually. The reality is that 1 in every 4 deaths nationwide is related to heart disease, though this statistic can be changed through behavioral modifications like diet, exercise, and relaxation. Check out the heart healthy tips below to decrease your risk for cardiovascular disease! 1

1.   Practice Portioning

Ever open up a bag of chips and suddenly the chips are all gone? Make sure your check how many serving sizes are in your product so that you can make an informed decision about how much you plan to consume during that meal. I find that portioning out my food that comes from a bag really helps, and I do this by roughly measuring out a serving size as I transfer it into a bowl.

2.   Compare Food Labels

For a heart healthy diet it is important to look at the nutrition facts label of products, but sometimes that can feel a bit overwhelming of a task for all of your groceries. Try choosing two similar products, and then review a couple of key values that are important for you. Keep note of which product you choose to bring ease to your next shopping journey. The FDA suggests that these values to consider for heart health: 2

  • No trans fat
  • Less saturated fat
  • Less sodium (salt)
  • Less cholesterol
  • Less sugar
  • Less calories per serving size
  • More fiber

3.   Enjoy Movement

Raise your hand if anyone told you to do more exercise. Okay, let’s get real for a second…. Not everyone likes pumping iron at the gym, and physical engagement doesn’t look the same for everyone. My best advice for those who want to increase their physical activity is to find something you enjoy doing. The American Heart Association recommends that you do 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least 5 times a week. I want to encourage you to find an activity you enjoy doing, whether it be an activity like dancing, biking, running, swimming, or using an elliptical. The fact is, if we enjoy doing an activity we are likely to do it more because we are passionate about the activity, not just the results of doing “exercise”. When we find movement we love to do, we find a passionate hobby that fulfills beyond our weekly exercise quota.

4.   Manage Mindfulness

More and more efforts are being invested into understanding how stress is related to heart disease. A medical doctor shared that excess stress can contribute to hypertension, also known as high blood pressure.4  Though practitioners may not know the direct pathways that explain how stress hormones can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease yet, it is well understood that when someone is experiencing stress they may be more likely to engage in activities that are not heart healthy. For example, to cope with stress individuals may smoke a cigarette or eat comfort foods that are high in trans-fat. Instead, try to manage your stress with healthy activities such as going for a walk, practicing deep breathing exercises, or making art.