How to Prevent Heart Disease

The old adage, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, could not be more accurate when it comes to preventing heart disease. Several factors that can cause or contribute to heart disease. Unfortunately, the disease sometimes runs in families, and while there is nothing you can do about your genetic predisposition, most other external risk factors are within your control.

Stop Smoking
A cause and effect between smoking and heart disease have long been established. If you smoke, do your best to find a way to quit for good. And do not be fooled by electronic cigarette substitutes — the jury is out, but there is reason to believe that those who vape also inhale harmful substances.

Ideal Cholesterol/Triglycerides
Know your numbers – especially your LDL and HDL levels. LDL (“bad” cholesterol) should be lower than 100, and HDL, (“good” cholesterol) should be higher than 40. Aim for an overall cholesterol level of below 200, and a triglycerides level of below 150. The ratio of LDL and HDL (dividing your total cholesterol by your HDL number) ideally should be about 3.5 and not above 5.

Optimal Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (defined as over 120/80) is linked to heart disease, though many people are walking around unaware, particularly as high blood pressure often has no symptoms. An occasional high reading or two is not worrisome, especially since many people tend to have higher readings at a physician’s office than at home. If you’re concerned, buy a blood pressure machine and take your blood pressure at home, in a quiet setting, and take it several times in a row. If you see consistently high levels, tell your doctor; high blood pressure is often treated first by diet (in particular, a low salt diet) and regular exercise. There are also many prescription medications and natural supplements that can help lower your blood pressure to normal ranges.

Being heart smart means exercising that all-important muscle regularly. Engage in a variety of aerobic, strength and stretching exercises at least five days a week.

Healthy Foods
Eat plenty of fruits (such as berries) and vegetables (such as asparagus, sweet potatoes and spinach), lean meats and proteins. Eggs have an undeserved bad reputation. While the yolks are high in cholesterol, consuming a few eggs won’t drastically raise your cholesterol levels or increase your risk of heart disease. However, if you want to avoid the yolk altogether, consider substituting egg whites, which have all of the protein but none of the cholesterol.

Regularly eat foods rich in omega 3s like salmon, nuts and seeds. Other heart-healthy foods include oatmeal, red wine, and dark chocolate (in moderation!). Foods to avoid on a heart-healthy diet include fast food, trans fats, foods high in saturated fats, soft drinks, foods that are deep-fried, foods with excessive sugar or salt and processed or cured meats.