(BPT) - A single choice doesn’t matter most of the time. Having dessert one night, taking a walk on another night and deciding to skip an outing with friends aren't life changing choices. A daily choice is small, like a pebble. But like pebbles, when you keep reaching for the same choices, they can amass into something significant.
If you want to improve your heart health, science tells us that making simple lifestyle changes can make a huge difference. And better heart health is undoubtedly on the minds of many Americans. One in three adults live with one or more types of cardiovascular disease, according a review published in the journal Circulation. Over time, changes in the heart and blood vessels can lead to a host of devastating problems, including heart attack, heart failure and stroke.
But the good news is you can make some lifestyle changes to reduce your risk and make yourself healthier. The effort doesn’t have to be perfect and you don’t need to sign up for an expensive complicated plan. If you make a commitment to reach for healthy choices more often than the alternatives, you and your doctor will start to see a difference. Here are four tips to get there.
Don’t chase diet fads: Stick with a Mediterranean-based diet, which is based on simple, whole, healthy foods, like fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, olive oil and fish. The upside is the Mediterranean diet checks off many boxes in terms of achieving better health. It promotes heart and brain health, weight loss, cancer prevention, and diabetes prevention and control. Recent research also shows it can reduce the risk of stroke. In 2013, a study in the New England Journal of Medicine said switching to a Mediterranean diet can prevent 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and heart disease deaths in high risk people.
Get more exercise: The recommendations are very simple here. The Surgeon General recommends 2.5 hours of moderate intensity each week for good heart health. That’s just over 20 minutes a day. While some people love the idea of getting super fit with an intense program, the truth is that all it takes is simple changes. Visit your doctor to find out what is safe for you, and make a list of activities you enjoy doing, whether it’s walking in the woods or taking a leisurely bike ride. Then make a plan to make these outings a part of your routine.
Find a friend: This surprising but true tip has some truth. Seeking companionship, whether it’s through an outing with a friend, joining a club or attending a family member’s school function can add up to good heart health. Without community and companionship, depression is more likely to set in, which is linked to higher rates of heart disease. Though it may be easier and tempting to stay in, especially during cold weather, choosing companionship can be positive for heart health.
Be informed: When it comes to your body, knowledge empowers you to make decisions to improve your health. Consult with your doctor, so you can make that targeted plan to improve your health. In addition to knowing your blood sugar, blood pressure, weight and cholesterol, consider adding vascular screening to the list. This screening looks for fatty buildup in the arteries, which can lead to serious conditions such as stroke, peripheral vascular disease and carotid artery stenosis.
Yet, many people are missing out on an important opportunity to be informed about their artery health, because vascular screenings are not typically covered by insurance. Luckily, there’s an affordable way for you to know your risk. Life Line Screening performs affordable testing in community settings throughout the country. The process is simple, safe and convenient, you will get your own results pack that you can review and bring to your doctor. In addition, you can sign up for a newsletter delivered to your inbox containing up-to-date, research-backed tips to help you maintain your health.
To find out when a Life Line screening clinic may be scheduled in your area, visit www.lifelinescreening.com or call (877) 754-9631.