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Heart Health: Five ways to help prevent cardiovascular disease

Cardiovascular disease accounts for 25 percent of all deaths in the United States – about 630,000 annually according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So, what are you doing to improve your cardiovascular health? Here are five steps you should be taking to prevent cardiovascular disease:

  1. Eating Healthy
  2. Exercising Regularly
  3. Limiting Alcohol Intake
  4. Not Smoking
  5. Managing Stress

Eating Healthy: For many of us, the admonition from their parents at dinnertime about eating their vegetables still rings in our ears. But don’t forget about eating fish, nuts, whole grains, fruits and berries. A healthy diet is one of the most important ways you can reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, which affects the heart and blood vessels and includes heart disease and stroke.

Enjoy a treat here and there, but also make sure to regularly choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat and sodium. Almonds and walnuts are snacks that your heart will love, while fish high in omega-3 oil, such as salmon, tuna and trout, will keep your weight low and your arteries free of plaque. Avoid red meat, sugar-sweetened beverages and any foods with added sugar.

Eating healthy helps keep from gaining excessive weight, boosts energy, reduces your cholesterol and, usually, keeps your blood pressure at acceptable levels. Normal blood pressure ranges from 120/80 to 140/90. Of course, for some people, high blood pressure and high cholesterol are a result of genetics. In those cases, your doctor will prescribe medications.

Exercising Regularly: Get out and exercise to strengthen your heart and improve circulation. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise five days a week. If you’ve never been one to hit the gym, start slowly with a casual walk or maybe try some chair yoga exercises. When faced with a choice, take the stairs instead of the elevator. Every little bit helps. The key is to make exercise a part of your daily life.

Limit Alcohol and Avoid Smoking: The statistics are sobering: smokers have up to four times the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, according to the American Heart Association. The AHA also recommends limiting alcohol intake to one drink per day for women of all ages and men older than 65, and two drinks a day for men 65 and younger.

Learn how to manage stress: Finally, don’t fret the small stuff and find ways to cope with life’s major stressors. Take a yoga class. Learn to meditate. Get into Zen. Settle down with a good book. Do a crossword puzzle. Find what relaxes you and do when life is stressing you out. Incorporating a plan that includes a few simple steps will go a long way toward reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. Your heart will thank you.

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