What Can You Change to Reduce Your Risk for Heart Disease?
Chances are you or someone you know has heart disease, that’s why knowing your risk factors, and taking steps to reduce them, is so important.
You cannot change your age, your family history, or your race and ethnicity – all things that can increase your risk for heart disease. Thank goodness the list of things you can change is much longer.
Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in America for both men and women. For women, it kills an average of one woman every minute.
What Can You Change to Reduce your Risk?
Each bullet below addresses a risk factor. Focus on the changes you can make by taking steps to:
- Manage your blood sugar levels or diabetes
- Increase your good HDL cholesterol
- Reduce your LDL cholesterol or triglycerides
- Bring your blood pressure down or manage hypertension
- Quit smoking and reduce exposure to second hand smoke
- Address excess body fat, especially around the stomach area
- Get more active and reduce your sedentary and sitting time
- Improve your diet quality by reducing foods that are high in saturated or trans fats, refined carbohydrates, and added sugars
- Get the right amount of good quality sleep
- Manage mental health issues such as stress, depression, anxiety
- Get more connected with social support and community
You may be thinking, so what, I’ve heard this all before…
Usually when I work with individual clients, they tell me that they need to lose weight or lower their cholesterol.
I say, sure, that’s the outcome you want… but how do you get there?
The answer is to focus on the small, seemingly unimportant choices you make every day. Get more activity, make more heart healthy food choices, paying attention to alcohol intake (find out if wine really is good for your heart), get better sleep, quit smoking, learn ways to manage stress and depression, and reduce isolation by making more connections.
Here’s a twist you may not have heard…
All these on their own can reduce risk even if your weight or labs don’t change.
I’ll say that again. These daily choices can reduce your risk even if your labs or weight don’t change.
And the truth is these daily habits may not change your labs and weight the way you expect them too. If you focus on the outcomes and you don’t reach them, it’s natural to want to give up on the changes you’ve made.
If you’ve ever thought you did everything right and the scale went up instead of down, or your cholesterol didn’t change at all, and you thought, well, why am I even trying, then you have experienced this..
What I’m getting at is don’t get caught up in the outcomes, which you may not be able to control.
Focus on changing your daily habits – the steps in the process that you can control – and let the outcomes be whatever they will be.
If they change, great, your risk is reduced even more.
But if not, you are still ahead of the game by making heart-healthy daily choices.