By Kenneth Kronlund, MD, FACP
Medical Director, Quality and Risk Management
It’s always a good time to think about the importance of heart health and ways to adopt healthier behaviors that can decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke. Unfortunately, heart disease is very common and is the leading cause of death for men and women, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The good news is that the risk of heart disease can be reduced by simple changes in lifestyle that anyone can make. Here are five lifestyle habits that can improve heart health and contribute to living longer:
- Move more often. Any physical activity is better than none, so choose an activity that you enjoy, such as biking, yoga, walking, swimming or tennis. Even small changes to your routine, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or parking further away from a store when you go shopping, can make a difference. Stay motivated to be active by exercising with a friend or a pet. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), regular moderate to vigorous physical activity reduces heart disease by 30 to 40 percent and stroke by 25 percent.
(Note: always talk with your doctor before significantly increasing your activity level. Ask about the amounts and types of activities that may be best for you.)
- If you smoke, it’s time to quit. There’s no doubt that giving up smoking is difficult, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be successful. Smokefree.gov offers a wealth of information on how to quit, including specific tools and tips for women, teenagers, veterans, and others that can really make a difference. Quitting smoking is one of the best things you can do to improve your heart health.
- Keep a gratitude journal. By taking a few minutes out of every day to acknowledge what or who you are grateful for, you can tap into positive emotions which are linked to greater wellbeing and better heart health. Try writing the things you are grateful for in a journal or even expressing them out loud to a friend or family member.
- Cut down on salt. Too much sodium intake from the foods we eat has been associated with an increase in blood pressure – and high blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration dietary guidelines recommend limiting sodium intake below 2,300 milligrams (mg) per day (about 1 teaspoon), and the American Heart Association recommends moving toward an ideal limit of no more than 1,500 mg per day for most adults. You can substitute salt with flavorful spices and herbs that liven up your food, such as basil, rosemary, mint, ginger, cayenne, cilantro and dill.
- Don’t neglect your teeth. Practicing good oral hygiene, especially flossing your teeth daily, can contribute to your overall health and heart health specifically. Research points to a link between gum disease and inflammation that can precede heart attacks. In addition, if you have gum disease, bacteria that live in your mouth can move into your bloodstream, enter the heart, and directly infect your heart valves. This is especially dangerous for patients with artificial heart valves. So be sure to brush and floss daily, and see a dentist every six months for an evaluation and cleaning.
About Kenneth Kronlund, MD
A physician for over two decades, Dr. Kenneth Kronlund has spent his entire career at Reliant Medical Group. Starting first in Urgent Care, he then became a practicing internist. Asked why he decided to make internal medicine his career, Dr Kronlund explains, “I chose to be an internist because I enjoy treating the full spectrum of medical issues that affect people as opposed to just concentrating in one area. But I think the biggest...View profile View posts by this doctor