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Heart disease should touch all of our hearts, even at a young age. In fact, plaque can begin to build up in your arteries as early as childhood and continue throughout adulthood. Over time, plaque may partially or completely block blood flow through an artery, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. In some people, this process accelerates as early as their 30s, whereas others may not experience the effects until later in life or not at all.
The buildup of plaque in the arteries is a condition called atherosclerosis and it often leads to coronary heart disease— the most common type of heart disease, killing more than 370,000 people every year. But many cases of atherosclerosis can be prevented by adopting a healthy lifestyle that promotes whole health.
Tips to Improve Your Heart Health
You can’t change some risk factors, such as your age, family history, and gender (men have a higher risk for heart attack than women). Others you can. Some factors you can control include:
- Quitting or never smoking
- Managing cholesterol levels
- Lowering blood pressure
- Increasing physical activity
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Preventing or controlling diabetes
It’s never too early to fight back against heart disease. In fact, the American Heart Association urges adults to begin taking preventive measures against heart attacks as young as age 20.
Here’s what you can do to improve your heart health starting today:
- Quit smoking.
- Eat a healthy diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish, nuts, and low-fat dairy products.
- Reduce your intake of saturated fat, trans fat, sodium, red meat, sweets and sugary beverages.
- Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity five or more days per week.
- Work with your doctor to manage your blood sugar levels if you have diabetes.
- Take steps to deal with stress by exercising, getting six to eight hours of sleep per night, and spending time with people who bring you joy.
- Avoid alcohol.
Find Your Partner in Whole Health
Starting at age 20, visit your doctor for heart-health screenings. Some of the screenings include checking your blood pressure, cholesterol, weight and body mass index (BMI).
If your doctor finds you have a problem, such as high blood pressure, he or she will recommend steps you can take to manage it before you develop more serious issues. These steps may include a combination of lifestyle changes and medications, such as those to control your blood pressure or cholesterol levels, if necessary. How often you need to follow up with your physician depends on your risk factors and overall health.
If you haven’t visited your doctor for a cardiovascular screening yet, make an appointment today.
To reach one of our whole-health experts, call us at 844-362-2329.