5 Ways to Lower Your Risk for Heart Disease

As the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, heart disease is a condition worth learning about. Even if you don’t have a family history of heart conditions, you can still develop heart disease because of how you live your life. 

Many lifestyle factors and everyday choices increase stress on your cardiovascular system, leading to a higher risk of developing heart disease regardless of your family history. It’s important to be aware of these so you can work on lowering your lifetime heart disease risk. 

At his private practice on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York, physician and cardiologist Jeffrey H. Graf, MD, welcomes you to receive superior preventive care and cardiac testing using state-of-the-art equipment. A concierge membership gives you increased time and attention from Dr. Graf so you can work on your heart health goals with more personalized care and less hurry. 

Looking for somewhere to start when it comes to lowering your heart disease risk? Focus on these five heart-healthy changes you can make today. 

1. Eliminate tobacco products from your life

Whether you smoke cigarettes, vape, or chew, using tobacco elevates your heart disease risk along with your risk of cardiac events like heart attack and stroke. Smoking in particular affects cardiovascular function in several different ways: It narrows and thickens your blood vessels, makes your blood stickier and at risk of clotting, and raises triglycerides. 

Secondhand smokers, or those who don’t smoke but are routinely exposed to tobacco smoke, aren’t exempt from the elevated heart disease risk that comes with smoking. In fact, secondhand smoke is a direct cause of an estimated 34,000 heart disease deaths each year in US nonsmokers. If you quit smoking, you just might spare a loved one’s cardiovascular health in addition to your own. 

2. Become more physically active

With so many obligations in your life, it’s easy to neglect physical activity and opt for more relaxing hobbies in your leisure time. But exercise is a critical tool in the fight against heart disease.

Experts suggest aiming for at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week: That’s a little over 20 minutes every day, or 30 minutes per day for five days. 

Consider turning to exercise as a form of stress management. Not only does aerobic activity improve your heart function, but this stress outlet is much easier on your heart than drinking alcohol, overeating, or using illicit drugs. 

3. Be mindful of how you cope with stress

Speaking of stress, high stress levels are a top risk factor for heart disease. Long-term stress leads to high levels of a stress hormone called cortisol in your blood. When you have high cortisol for an extended period of time, it can raise your cholesterol, blood pressure, and triglycerides: All of which raise your risk for heart disease. 

4. Prioritize sleep

Not getting enough sleep doesn’t just make you feel drowsy during the day. Long-term insomnia increases your heart disease risk considerably. You should aim to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. 

Dealing with insomnia can be challenging as sleep problems aren’t always within your control. To help ensure you get enough quality sleep, try:

Sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that causes multiple pauses in breathing overnight, reduces your oxygen supply. Not only does it limit your ability to get a good night’s sleep, but it also places stress on your cardiovascular system that puts you at a higher risk of getting heart disease even if you don’t account for the reduced sleeping hours. 

5. Balance your diet

A heart-healthy diet is fundamental for lowering your risk of, or even preventing, heart disease. Focus on eating whole foods, not processed foods or foods with tons of ingredients you can’t pronounce. Eat plenty of fruits, veggies, leafy greens, whole grains, and lean meats. 

For a healthier heart, make an effort to limit:

Dr. Graf can work with you on modifying your diet and being mindful of the foods you choose. 

Do you know your risk? Routine screenings detect conditions that rarely or never have symptoms, including high blood pressure and high cholesterol. To discuss your cardiovascular health with Jeffrey H. Graf, MD, call or contact us through this website today.

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