Here’s how to prevent it: The numbers the American Heart Association (AHA) cites are compelling. One woman dies of heart disease or stroke approximately every 80 seconds. Cardiovascular disease and stroke cause one in three deaths a year. The good news? According to the AHA, 80 percent of heart disease and stroke can be prevented by lifestyle change and education.
That’s where the experts at St. Luke’s Heart and Vascular Center come in. It can be reduced to one sentence, says Dwithiya Thomas, MD, of the St. Luke’s Women’s Heart Center: manage your intake for a better outcome. Sounds simple, right? Well, what do you take in — or not take in?
For starters: stop smoking. If you smoke, quitting — and avoiding cigarette smoke, if you’re around people who do smoke — is the best thing you can do to prevent heart disease. Smoking damages your circulatory system, inhibits your lung capacity, and lowers your good (HDL) cholesterol.
Next? Eat better. That sounds easy, but we all know that involves a multitude of decisions we make during the day. Make it easy on yourself by following these tips, says Dr. Lynn Moran:
- Keep a food journal. Just for a week. Or even a day. Look back at that record and see what and when you eat. Then figure out how to change the bad stuff. Switch it out, even just one item at a time, if it is easier.
- Make it easy to make good food choices at home... Added sugar, salt, and cholesterol are hidden in a lot of packaged and prepared foods, so read labels and only bring home what’s healthy, and you won’t be able to gorge on the bad stuff. When you’re at the supermarket, don’t even go down the cookie aisle. Shop around the outside for fresh vegetables, fruits, and lean meats and fish. Using your kids as an excuse? Buy cookies you hate and they like. Or skip the whole thing and find better snacks for everyone.
- …And, when you’re going out. Look at the menu ahead of time. Find two things you like, and make the healthier choice of the two. Over time, that method has you eating leaner and better, which will help lower your blood pressure and your cholesterol.
Last? Leave time in your day for exercise. Everything counts, says Dr. Ann Mani. All those tricks you’ve heard of to get exercise into your day? Do them. Park your car further away. Stand up at your desk every half hour and walk to the water fountain. Keep your workout stuff in the car so you can go straight to the gym. Make a date with a friend, and wake up that half hour earlier to meet her for a brisk walk. Thirty minutes of moderate exercise every day lowers your risk for heart disease and increases your overall quality of life.