IN MY FAMILY, there is a history of a blood disease, which causes the person to produce too many red blood cells. This, in turn, causes the blood to be too thick, which puts the person at increased risk for heart attack or stroke. Although this rare condition is not linked to heart disease, it can lead to the same threat to life. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. — so knowing that, and my family history, I try to do everything possible to keep my heart healthy.
A good diet and daily exercise are important, but there’s more you could be doing to help your ticker stay in tip-top shape. Try these five easy habits that will benefit your heart:
1. AVOID SECOND-HAND SMOKE. If you’re exposed to secondhand smoke at home or work, studies show that your risk for developing heart disease is 25 to 30 percent higher. Cigarette smoke increases the development of plaque buildup in the arteries, increasing your risk for heart disease.
2. AVOID TRANS FATS. Not all fats are created equal. Trans fats are man-made fats found in prepackaged foods and are sometimes labelled as “partially hydrogenated oils.” Trans fats have been directly linked to raising bad (LDL) cholesterol, lowering good (HDL) cholesterol, and increasing your risk of heart disease and death. The FDA has ordered all trans fats to be out of processed foods by 2018.
3. KEEP UP WITH ORAL HEALTH. Several studies have linked gum disease and heart disease. While the relationship is unclear, the medical community believes the inflammation caused by gum disease may contribute to heart disease.
4. GET ENOUGH SLEEP. Studies have linked getting less than six hours a night of sleep with a nearly 50 percent increase risk for heart attack and stroke.
5. DON’T SIT FOR TOO LONG. Recent studies have shown that sitting for long periods of time is bad for your health. One study revealed a 147 percent increase in cardiovascular events like a heart attack, and a 90 percent increase in death in people who sat for long periods of time, such as in a sedentary job. Moving throughout the day, along with exercise, is key.
While following all these steps may not be a “magic pill” for avoiding heart disease, they will certainly lower your chances — not to mention improve your quality of life. If you have questions or concerns about how your lifestyle or how your family history might be contributing to your risk of heart attack or stroke, make sure to contact your physician. Don’t delay.
column by CELESTE JO WALLS
Celeste Jo Walls is managing editor of Central Florida Health News. She may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.