The good news is that there are steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Here are three tips for keeping your cardiovascular system in tip-top shape to help you prevent heart disease and stroke.
It’s hard to overstate the value of this move–in fact, new evidence shows that smoking is even worse for us than we previously thought. Smoking and secondhand smoke contribute to plaque buildup in your arteries, raise your risk of blood clots, raise blood pressure, reduce the amount of oxygen in your heart, and make your heart work harder to get the job done.
This move has immediate rewards: as soon as you quit, you’ve reduced your risk level for heart disease and stroke. Within one year of quitting, you’ve halved it.
Easier said than done, right? But when it gets too high, stress is another contributor to your risk for heart disease and stroke. How do you know if your stress is elevated? Watch for symptoms like anxiety, headaches, and stomach problems–and over the long term, excessive stress can even contribute to depression.
The connection between stress and cardiovascular problems isn’t fully understood. It could up blood pressure, and some people with excess stress have more artery hardening and cholesterol. Excess stress can also make it harder to live a healthy lifestyle, which is another important factor in preventing heart disease and stroke.
If stress is getting you down, trying reducing your obligations, exercising, focusing on getting enough sleep, and meditating. And if you suspect you’re dealing with clinical depression or an anxiety disorder, speak to your doctor about treatment options.
Your everyday choices can also reduce–or raise–your risk of cardiovascular disease. Getting to or staying at a healthy weight is one way to cut your risk. Research shows that a waist circumference above 40 inches for men or 35 inches for women is associated with increased risk for heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure.
Making sure to work regular physical activity into your days is another way to keep your heart healthy. The Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada recommends getting at least 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity aerobic activity every week–and that can be in bursts as short as ten minutes at a time, if necessary.
As for food, getting a lot of variety in your diet is a good way to ensure you’re getting a great mix of nutrients. Eat lots of produce, get plenty of fiber, and avoid trans fats and overly processed foods.
There are some supplements that may also help. One study found that supplementing with niacin (vitamin B3) raised levels of healthy blood cholesterol and helped cardiovascular patients. As well, a meta-analysis showed that CoQ10 supplementation could reduce blood pressure. And we know that magnesium has a role in regulating blood pressure, and there’s evidence it can play a role in keep blood pressure at healthy levels and reducing stroke risk. Finally, there is some evidence that supplementing with omega 3 fatty acids could lower heart disease risk, but the research is ongoing.