Heart disease can be crippling and deadly.  Yet, many people living in the U.S. today really have no idea about what it is and—more importantly—what risk factors they have in their everyday lives.  Here are a couple of the risk factors of heart disease and some of the things you can to do decrease your chances of falling prey to this condition.

Your Blood Pressure

Your blood pressure is a measurement that tells you how hard the heart is working to pump blood, and how healthy your blood vessels are.  It tends to be slightly higher in men than in women, but in both genders a higher blood pressure correlates to a higher risk of developing heart disease, kidney disease, and stroke.

While blood pressure medications are widely available, it’s always best initially if you can keep your blood pressure down through your weight loss where appropriate, diet and your exercise regimen.  Your genetics and other factors that may be out of your control will play a role in determining your blood pressure, but getting a handle on the important lifestyle modifications that you CAN control is within your power and does make a difference.

To keep your blood pressure low, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, and try to minimize the fatty foods you consume.  Try to keep your sodium (salt) intake to less than 2000 mg a day (read labels). Some people go so far as to eliminate red meat entirely from their diets.  Also, focus on getting at least 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise at least 3-5 times a week, and stick to no more than 1-2 caffeinated beverages a day.  Excessive alcohol consumption will also raise blood pressure, as will untreated sleep apnea, so if you suspect this condition, get it checked out.

Regarding the topic of exercise, it is easy for people to get discouraged about this because they feel like they can’t do vigorous for an extended period of time.  The good news is that getting enough exercise doesn’t have to involve going for a 5-mile run—although if you are physically capable of doing so, that’s a great way to get exercise—as studies have shown that walking at a brisk pace (around 3.5 to 4 miles per hour) for extended periods of time can be almost as beneficial as running.  So do what you can, when you can, and watch your blood pressure reading begin to fall.

Your Stress Levels

Everyone knows that emotional stress is bad for your body.  It can cause a wide array of health issues and accelerate the aging process.  However, many people don’t know that a high-stress environment and the way you handle it can also contribute to developing heart problems.

While you cannot eliminate stress entirely—and you probably wouldn’t want to even if you could, as a little bit of stress helps to keep you motivated to accomplish things—you can certainly do things to decrease it.  You may consider taking some yoga classes or learning how to engage in activities such as meditation and deep-breathing exercises.  Even these seemingly simple things help decrease the stress you have to deal with and have been shown to be beneficial to heart health.

Your Blood Sugar

When people think about heart disease, they probably know that fatty foods can contribute to the condition.  However, a diet high in processed sugars can also contribute to the disease because high blood sugar can lead to inflamed blood vessels which accelerates the process of cholesterol buildup and damages the lining of the arteries.  Take steps to reduce the amount of processed sugar you consume.  In addition to helping you drop weight, this will reduce your chances of developing a serious condition such as heart disease or diabetes.  You’ll look better, feel better, and be healthier for your efforts.

Heart disease is a serious matter, and claims more lives than cancer worldwide.  Every year people who seem to be completely healthy end up suffering from heart attacks and strokes.  These potentially dire events can leave you crippled, and unfortunately sometimes – dead.  So take care of yourself, pay attention to your risk factors, and PROACTIVELY take steps to reduce your chances of developing cardiovascular disease. At Preventive Cardiology of New York, we have many unique tools for identifying risk factors for heart disease and the presence of underlying cardiovascular disease to help ensure that you stay healthy for a long time.  Make your appointment today by calling (646)-661-2427.