You've known it for a while: When it comes to developing heart disease, certain behaviors can put you directly in harm's way. While you can't do anything about getting older-or an unlucky family history-you can take care of your physical and mental health to help decrease your risk of getting sick. Below, learn to avoid six common risk factors to keep your heart beating strongly.
1. Smoking. Smokers have two to four times the risk of developing heart disease that nonsmokers do, according to the AHA. But quitting is a powerful thing: One year after stopping, your risk of heart disease is half that of a smoker's; after 15 years, it's the same as a nonsmoker's, says the American Lung Association. You're also at risk if you're regularly exposed to secondhand smoke: Up to 70,000 people die of heart disease due to secondhand smoke each year.Get all the tips and tools you need to stop smoking today.
2. Blood pressure and cholesterol. Everyone should know her blood pressure, LDL, HDL, and total cholesterol levels and triglycerides, says Malissa Wood, MD, codirector of the Massachusetts General Hospital
Heart Center Corrigan Women's Heart Health Program in Boston. Your blood pressure should be less than 130/80; total cholesterol should be under 200; LDL cholesterol should be under 130; HDL should be above 50; and triglycerides should be under 150. If your numbers aren't good, talk to your doctor about how to improve them, whether it's through diet and lifestyle changes or medication.
3. Weight and waist circumference. If your BM I is 25 or higher, you're at increased risk of heart disease; if it's over 30 (meaning you're obese), the risk is even higher. (Calculate your BM I at WomansDay.com/BMI.) And if your waist circumference is over 35 inches, you're in more danger. In fact, a study from the journal Obesity Research and Clinical Practice found that women who had a waist circumference greater than 35 inches had almost three times the risk of developing heart disease.
4. Not exercising. If you're a couch potato, you're almost twice as likely to develop heart disease, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). "You're more likely to be overweight, which increases risk of heart disease, and activity strengthens your cardiovascular system," says Nieca Goldberg, MD , medical director of New York University's Women's Heart Program. The AHA recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week. Squeeze it in wherever you can; every little bit counts.
5. Type 2 diabetes. People with this condition are at least twice as likely to have heart disease or stroke. If you do have diabetes, make sure you get it under control, whether that's by losing weight, eating right and/or taking medication.
6. Stress. It appears to be a risk factor, though the jury is still out on how much of a role it plays and why. "Research shows that people who are chronically stressed have higher rates of heart disease," says Dr. Goldberg. "We don't know if that's because of the effects of stress hormones or because people who are stressed are more likely to engage in unhealthy habits."
Original article appeared on WomansDay.com.
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