The heart works constantly, making it among the body’s most important organs. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most commonly affected by disease. Cardiovascular disease, which is the umbrella term for all of the conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels, is the leading cause of death in the U.S. While these conditions affect many people, they can be avoided. Here are some ways you can promote heart health.

Follow a Healthy Diet

What you eat has an important effect on your “bad” or HDL cholesterol, which can clog arteries and increase your risk of heart disease. For example, butter, fried and other heavily processed foods are often high in saturated and trans fats. Limiting these foods and selecting low-fat dairy products and lean meats can help keep your cholesterol in control.

Controlling sodium is also important to heart health. High salt intake has been associated with high blood pressure, an important risk factor for heart disease. Processed foods are a common source for sodium. To ensure you’re not exceeding the daily recommended maximum of 2,300 milligrams, read the nutritional labels on the packaged foods you eat, and limit your use of table salt.

Just as there are important foods to avoid to promote heart health, there are also certain foods that can boost cardiovascular wellness. Aim for a variety of fruits and vegetables, plant-based proteins and lean meat, liquid non-tropical vegetable oils, and whole grains.

Get Moving

Routine physical activity reduces your risk of cardiovascular illnesses like heart disease. Adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week, which can be broken up into 30 minutes per day, five days a week. These activities make your heart beat faster, which is important for keeping the muscle conditioned. Aerobic activity can encompass anything from brisk walking to doing yard work — as long as your pulse quickens and your breathing gets heavier. 

For even better overall health, you should also incorporate two days a week of muscle strengthening exercises, such as bodyweight activities or weightlifting, to work all of your body’s muscle groups.

Check In With Your Doctor

Heart health is a lifelong journey, and your doctor can be a partner for every step. Together, you and your doctor can collaborate to:

Evaluate your health history. Our providers will get to know your family and personal health history to evaluate risks and make specific recommendations based on your unique health factors.

  • Discuss screenings. As we age, our risk for cardiovascular conditions increases. Your doctor will recommend screenings such as cholesterol tests as they become necessary. For example, most men aged 35 and older and women 45 and older should have cholesterol screenings. This promotes early detection of coronary heart disease, and thus the likelihood that treatments and lifestyle modifications can prevent more serious cardiac events.
  • Provide lifestyle recommendations and medications. Should we detect an issue that could impact your heart health, we’ll help you address it to reduce your risk of more serious health issues. For example, we may advise home blood pressure tests, dietary changes, and increased activities if your blood pressure is slightly elevated. In certain cases, medications for blood pressure or cholesterol may be needed as well.

University Health Alliance is committed to heart health through strategies like preventive care and disease management. To schedule a visit for yourself or a family member, call 762-356-4933. You can also find out more about our team and services online