Confronted with an abundance of confusing and sometimes contradictory information regarding heart disease, it can be difficult for people to figure out what factors and behaviors truly lower their risk. Making the right choices can seem like a struggle. So where do you start?
KNOW YOUR FAMILY HISTORY
It is critically important to be aware of your family risk and history of heart disease — especially early heart disease. While heart disease is so common that it strikes every family, cases of heart disease that arise at an early age—before 50 for men, or before 60 for women—may be indicative of an underlying genetic predisposition to heart trouble. If you know your parents, grandparents or close relatives suffered from heart disease at young ages, your doctor needs to know. They can order specific gene or blood tests that may reveal you have a high risk for heart trouble.
EXERCISE AT LEAST ONCE A WEEK
More exercise is better. But even a once weekly bout of physical activity can drop your risk of heart disease risk. Raising your heart rate with regular exercise is one of the best ways to ensure it stays strong. Whether you enjoy running, cycling, swimming, or fast-paced vinyasa yoga, try to exercise at a moderate to vigorous pace—something that gets your heart rate elevated—at least once a week.
TAKE AT LEAST 5,000 STEPS A DAY
If walking is your preferred mode of exercise, a single weekly bout isn’t enough to safeguard your heart. Aim for at least 5,000 steps a day.
EAT A VARIETY OF FRUITS and VEGGIES
Decades of research show eating a variety of whole fruits and vegetables is the foundation of a heart-healthy diet. Choose a range of colors—a fruit or vegetable’s color is determined by its nutrient components. So by eating plenty of reds, yellows, oranges, and purples with your leafy greens, you’ll ensure your body and heart are getting what they need.
Smoking is the number one cause of heart disease. Quitting smoking is easily the best thing you can do for your heart.
AVOID ADDED SUGAR
The American Heart Association recommends that men limit their added sugar intake to 36 grams a day—which is roughly the amount in one 12-ounce can of soda. For women, that daily limit is 25 grams, or the amount in a 7.5-ounce can of Coca Cola.
14 Ways to Get 10,000 Steps A Day Without Exercising More
1. Park Farther Away — Park your car in the farthest corner. Every extra minute of walking you do from your car to the building is worth 84 steps.
2. Take the Stairs — Each flight of stairs you add to your day is roughly the equivalent of taking 38 steps on flat ground.
3. Walk the Dog — Allow your dog to sniff around a few distractions, and before you know it, you’ll have taken nearly 1,000 steps in 15 minutes.
4. Dance Party! — Put on your favorite song and boogie around the living room.
5. Mow or Rake the Lawn — Outdoor chores can help you rack up steps.
6. Take an Extra Lap — Before you hit the check-out line at the grocery store, walk through the aisles one more time.
7. Get Off at the Wrong Stop — If you take public transit to work, hop off your bus or train one stop early.
8. Use the Other Bathroom — At the office, travel to another floor instead of the one right around the corner.
9. Window Shop on Your Lunch Break — A slow stroll will earn you 61 steps per minute. You can easily nab 1,200 in a quick jaunt.
10. Don’t Hit Send — Before you fire off that e-mail to your coworker who sits down the hall, walk over to talk instead.
11. Vacuum — At 94 steps per minute, this lousy chore could get you close to your goal.
12. Mini Golf — All that walking from hole to hole adds up.
13. Wash the Car — Skip the drive-thru and do it yourself.
14. Go Hands-Free — Pop in an earbud and take that conference call on the go.