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The Four Most Important Things You Can Do for Your Heart

Heart disease is a leading cause of death, but that doesn’t mean it’s inevitable.

True, there are certain risk factors you can’t change, such as age and family history, but making heart-healthy choices can go a long way toward preventing heart disease.

Avoid Tobacco

Using any kind of tobacco is one of the biggest risk factors for heart disease – and one of the most controllable. Tobacco contains chemicals that cause damage to your heart and blood vessels, and this in turn can lead to a heart attack.

Cigarette smoking comes with an extra risk: the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces some of the oxygen in your blood.

When this happens, your blood pressure and heart rate increase as your heart works harder to supply adequate oxygen.

Eat a Healthy Diet

Eat lots of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein to protect your heart, and limit unhealthy fats, sugars, and refined carbohydrates. Saturated fats and trans fats, in particular, appear to increase heart risk, so try to limit or avoid foods such as red meat, whole-fat dairy products, fried foods, packaged snack foods, and the like.

Exercise Regularly

Exercise works in a number of ways to reduce your heart disease risk. For starters, it helps you control your weight, and being at a healthy weight lowers your overall risk. And exercise in and of itself helps keep your heart strong and healthy. Just 30 minutes a day, most days of the week, will pay off, and 60 minutes a day is even better. It doesn’t have to be intense exercise, either – brisk walking is enough.

Get Enough Sleep

Sleep deprivation does more than make you feel awful during the day; it also harms your health. Not getting enough shut-eye ups your risk of heart disease, along with a host of other ailments including obesity, diabetes, and depression.

While you’re at it, don’t be a stranger to the doctor’s office. Regular health screenings can tell you whether you have conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which can damage your heart.

Staying on top of your lifestyle choices can make a huge difference in the likelihood that you will experience heart disease or, for that matter, a wide range of health problems.

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