7 Simple Habits to Keep Your Heart Healthy
Did you know about half of all adults in the United States have high blood pressure?
That’s about 116 million people, but only 1 in 4 have their blood pressure under control.
Many don’t even know they have high blood pressure. It’s one reason high blood pressure is sometimes called “the silent killer.” And it’s why your blood pressure gets checked every time you visit the doctor.
Left unchecked, high blood pressure can lead to:
- Heart attack or stroke
- Heart failure
- Kidney problems
- Vision problems
- Metabolic syndrome
- Age-related memory loss
- And other health problems
Sounds pretty bad, right? Here’s the crazy thing. It’s largely preventable with healthy lifestyle habits. Want to protect your heart and your health?
Here are 7 things you can do to avoid high blood pressure:
1. Know your family health history
Ask your parents and extended family about their health. High blood pressure can be genetic, and some groups of people are more likely to develop high blood pressure than others.
If you don’t have access to your family health history, ask your doctor about blood tests that can identify risks for chronic diseases.
2. Eat healthy foods
Most of your food should come from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes. Low-fat dairy products, lean meats and fish can also be part of a healthy diet.
Avoid or limit highly-processed foods, sugary drinks, and foods high in calories but low in nutrients.
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3. Be more active
You don’t have to run a marathon, train like a bodybuilder or climb a mountain.
But if you want to protect your heart and your health, chances are pretty good you need to be more active.
About 76 percent of adults don’t get enough cardio/strength exercise, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Here’s what the CDC recommends:
- 20 minutes of cardio-based exercise at least 5 days a week (walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, etc.)
- Strength train at least 2 days a week
4. Don’t smoke, or quit if you do
Every time you inhale smoke from a cigarette, your blood vessels constrict and your blood pressure rises.
The only helpful approach to avoid high blood pressure is to be tobacco free. You should also avoid secondhand smoke.
5. Avoid or limit alcohol
Even a little alcohol can raise your blood pressure and risk for other diseases.
If you do drink, follow these guidelines:
- No more than one drink per day for women, zero if pregnant.
- No more than two drinks per day for men.
6. Check your blood pressure
You can do this at home with a wrist-based or arm-cuff-style blood pressure monitor.
If you don’t have one, most pharmacies have a free station to check your blood pressure. A healthy or normal blood pressure is less than 120/80.
7. Take medications if required
Healthy lifestyle habits can help avoid high blood pressure and reduce the need for medication. But sometimes medication is necessary to protect your health.
If your doctor recommends medication to help you manage your blood pressure or other health conditions, follow the instructions.