5 Risk Factors for Heart Disease You Can Change

5 Risk Factors for Heart Disease You Can Change

Over 650,000 people in the United States lose their lives to heart disease every year. While age, family history, and other factors might be out of your control, there are plenty of ways you can reduce your risk of heart disease. It’s never too late to improve your health, and every effort counts towards keeping your heart beating.  

At Gulf West Medical Associates in Port Richey, Florida, board-certified internist Rajesh Dave, MD, is a heart disease specialist. For American Heart Month, here are his five tips for lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your heart disease risk. 

Reducing risk factors 

The new year is a popular time for lofty resolutions, but small steps are better for your mental and physical health. Instead of expecting yourself to do your best at all times, aim low, set realistic expectations, and dig in your heels. It’s harder to give up when the goalpost is within reach. 

#1: Shed some weight

Not only is excess weight a contributing factor for heart disease, but it also increases your risk of high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension. If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight might be the first thing on your health improvement plan. 

This is where realistic expectations come in. Many people aspire to lose weight at the beginning of the year, but lose steam because they don’t know how, feel overwhelmed, or are dissatisfied with their progress. 

However, you only need to lose a few pounds to make a difference. For patients with obesity, losing just 5% of their body weight lowers heart disease risk. You don’t have to set a strict diet and exercise plan to make progress, either; every positive change is worth making. 

If you’re struggling to lose weight on your own, talk to your provider about tools and programs to help you reach your goals. 

#2: Address your stress 

Scientists are working to understand exactly how stress boosts cardiovascular risk, but it’s a factor. We know that prolonged stress can worsen inflammation, an underlying factor in heart disease. 

It can be challenging to limit stress in your life, especially when circumstances are difficult. However, taking time for yourself to sit outside, practice mindfulness, and participate in leisure activities is extremely important for both your heart and mind. 

#3: Get up and go 

The human body is made to move, and it’s crucial to keep it conditioned with regular exercise and stretching. Physical activity keeps your heart strong and promotes blood flow through the body, keeping your tissues oxygenated. 

Gym memberships skyrocket at the start of every year, but that’s not the only place to exercise. Instead of hitting the gym, try picking up a new hobby to keep you engaged, such as cycling, dancing, jumping rope, and even trampolining. 

#4: Keep an eye on your cholesterol 

Over time, fatty substances accumulate in the arteries and harden, causing the arteries to stiffen and narrow. This is called atherosclerosis, known more commonly as heart disease. 

Make sure to ask for the results of your screenings during your wellness visits, and talk to your doctor about ways to lower your cholesterol. With a healthy diet and exercise plan, you can keep it within acceptable limits and reduce your chances of cardiovascular disease. 

#5: Control high blood pressure

Hypertension is a silent, deadly condition that can damage your body for years before symptoms emerge. That’s why pharmacies around the world have blood pressure machines; you should be checking it outside of the doctor’s office, too. 

When your blood pressure is persistently high, it puts stress on your heart and circulatory system, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. If your lifestyle changes aren’t lowering your blood pressure, talk to your doctor about medication. 

Concerned about your heart health? Dr. Rajesh Dave specializes in heart disease, high blood pressure, and preventative healthcare. To get in touch, call 727-848-0247 or request an appointment online

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