5 Factors that Impact Your Heart Health

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Our hearts impact our health and well-being in a myriad of ways, and a number of different factors determine whether the heart functions optimally.

Heart disease is one of the most common conditions that can keep your heart from performing its best. Heart disease is an overarching term that covers heart rhythm issues, heart attacks, coronary disease and more.

Here are some factors that impact heart health and some easy tips to maintain a healthy heart.

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1) How Much You Move

The average American works eight hours a day, spends another half-hour sitting in their car and spends more time at night on the computer or in front of the TV. A sedentary lifestyle is bad for the heart. A lack of exercise is strongly correlated to an array of heart disease conditions.

What you can do: Instead of taking the elevator at work, take the stairs. Take a brisk walk to the store instead of driving. Join a local recreational sports league or volunteer as a youth sports coach to stay active. Your newfound commitment to physical activity will reduce your odds of heart disease, improve your endurance and may even lift your mood.

If you’re currently using a wearable device to measure your daily activity, check out these tips for getting the most out of your fitness tracker.

2) Age and Gender

Some heart disease risk factors are totally out of your control, and chief among these are age and sex. The elderly are at greater risk for heart disease due to the fact that the aging process often damages and/or narrows the arteries. Aging also has the potential to weaken the heart muscle.

Biological sex also impacts heart health. Men are more likely to suffer from heart disease than women. It’s worth noting that women are at a higher risk for heart disease after menopause.

What you can do: Men and post-menopausal women should be aware of their heightened risk, keep up with their doctor visits and make an extra effort to eat healthy and be physically active.

Did you know that heart attack symptoms can differ for men and women? Learn the differences between the genders.

3) Smoking

Doctors universally agree that the consumption of nicotine constricts blood vessels. The carbon monoxide in cigarettes also has the potential to damage the inner lining of the blood vessels, increasing the risk of atherosclerosis. As a result, smokers are much more likely to suffer a heart attack than nonsmokers.

What you can do: Stop smoking. If you need more proof, check out these 8 reasons why your body will thank you for a smoke free life.

4) Genetics

An individual’s genetics play an important part in his or her heart health. Those with family members who have experienced heart disease are more susceptible to having heart problems. This is especially true of individuals with a family history of coronary artery disease, especially if it is a parent who developed the condition before his late 50s or early 60s.

What you can do: Know your risk. If you have a family risk of heart attacks or heart disease, you’ll need to be more vigilant in prevention and communicate with your doctor about your family history.

5) Diet

Those who consume foods that are high in salt, fat, cholesterol and sugar are at an extraordinarily high risk for heart disease. This poor diet leads to high blood cholesterol levels that significantly boost the chances of plaque formation. A poor diet can also cause obesity and diabetes, both of which put you at risk for heart disease.

What you can do: Those who consume a large amount of processed foods and sugar-laden drinks should make the effort to eat a more balanced diet. Substitute leafy greens, fresh fruits and vegetables in place of foods that are high in sugar, salt and fat.

Eating for your heart doesn't have to be hard or boring. Familiarize yourself with these key heart healthy foods for every meal to stay on track.

Though you can’t control all of the variables that determine heart health, you can be proactive to reduce your odds of developing heart disease. Be conscious of your diet, your physical activity and your family’s heart health history. Working with your primary care doctor or cardiologist, you will keep your heart as healthy as possible!

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