How Can I Stay Heart Healthy?

Written By: Chester M. Hedgepeth, MD, Chief of Cardiology, Kent Hospital on March 17, 2021

5 Ways to Help Prevent the Onset of Heart Disease

Cardiovascular disease is the number one killer of adults in the United States.  The prevalence of heart disease is, unfortunately, growing - largely driven by societal increases in obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. 

Every year billions of dollars are spent treating patients with the most severe forms of heart disease. As a cardiologist, helping patients maintain heart health has been a top priority for me and the team of cardiovascular professionals at Care New England.

Here are five (5) things you can do, right now, to lower your risk of developing heart disease.

1.    Lower Your Stress

It’s a stressful time for Americans.  Between COVID-19 and social/political unrest – these difficult times can unmask or speed-up the progression of heart disease. 

Acknowledging stress and taking steps to lessen its impact on your health should be a top priority. Yoga, mindfulness training, and meditation can all be helpful.  However, if the stress affects your ability to perform daily activities, seeing a therapist or counselor may be necessary.    

2.    Get Enough Sleep

In addition to reducing stress in your life, attention should be paid to other complementary factors that influence heart health, including sleep. Making sleep a priority pays huge dividends for patients.  It is during sleep that our bodies recover from the day’s stress plus, our hearts and vascular systems get a chance to rest.

3.    Exercise

Setting aside time for cardiovascular exercise is imperative. The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes per week of moderate-intense exercise. Exercise at this level has been linked to cardiovascular disease prevention. Activities can include:

  • Brisk walking
  • Biking
  • Running
  • Swimming
4.    Eat Healthy

The adage: ‘You are what you eat’ is so true. The foods we put in our body are converted into energy which fuels our ability to perform tasks and interact with our loved ones. 

Natural, unprocessed foods, like vegetables, should make up most of our daily diet.  While processed, sugary foods and drinks - high in carbohydrates - should be avoided.  

Processed foods can help fuel chronic diseases including obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. People who have a combination of chronic diseases are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease and associated complications - including heart attack and stroke.

5.    Avoid Smoking 

In addition to lowering stress, getting enough sleep, exercising, and eating right - it is equally important to avoid negative influences such as tobacco use. 

Cigarettes have been linked to cancers and cardiovascular disease.  Also, stroke and peripheral artery disease are more common in those who smoke. On the flip side, giving up cigarettes has been linked to improvements in heart and vascular disease.  That is why, at Care New England, we exhaust all available medical and therapy options to get cardiac patients to stop smoking. 

Bottom Line

Heart health should be a top priority for us all.  It is essential to have goals and create a plan to stay healthy by reducing stress, getting enough sleep, exercising, eating healthy and avoiding smoking. The benefits of this plan-based approach will be reaped over time with improved energy, avoidance of heart disease, and a higher quality of life.

Disclaimer: While I am a doctor, I am not your doctor.  The content in this blog is for informational and educational purposes only and should not serve as medical advice, consultation, or diagnosis. If you have a medical concern, please consult your healthcare provider, or seek immediate medical treatment.