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Four Steps to Reduce Your Heart Disease Risk

Posted on Feb 18, 2014 in Heart Health

Heart Health

Show your heart the love and learn how to keep your heart healthy.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. Fortunately, there are simple steps you can take to reduce your heart disease risk. Some risk factors, such as family history and age, are out of your hands, but many issues related to lifestyle are within your control.

Mills-Peninsula cardiologist George Cohen, M.D., offers four simple steps to reduce your risk for heart disease.

  1. If you smoke, stop. “Smoking is one of the major risk factors for heart disease,” Dr. Cohen says. “So if you smoke, make it a top priority to stop.” Resources, such as smoking cessation classes, are available to help.
  2. Do everything you enjoy, but in moderation. Except for smoking, most other lifestyle habits fall into this category. Moderate alcohol consumption doesn’t increase your heart disease risk. Love ice cream? Enjoy rich foods? Moderation is the key. Excessive amounts of anything can be problematic.
  3. Get 30 to 40 minutes of moderate exercise at least four to five days per week. Sound hard to accomplish? “Vigorous walking is OK,” Dr. Cohen says. “If you do nothing other than walk at a good clip for 40 minutes a day, you’ve accomplished this goal.”
  4. Maintain optimal weight. Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial to keeping your heart healthy. The growing obesity epidemic is leading to more – and earlier onset – diabetes. “Diabetes is a very significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease,” Dr. Cohen says. According to the American Diabetes Association, people with diabetes are twice as likely to have heart disease or a stroke.

The best way is to keep a healthy weight is to reduce your portion sizes. “Our portion sizes in the United States are much too great,” says Dr. Cohen. Plus, it takes your brain about 20 to 30 minutes after eating to realize your stomach is full. “So, stop when you’re still a little hungry. You will feel full soon!”

Another effective trick is to shop only on the outside isles of the supermarket, where you find fresh vegetables, fish, nuts and whole grains. The center isles of the market are where all the processed foods are. If you have to go in the middle, carefully read labels. “You will be shocked at some of the ingredients in processed foods,” he says. Avoid ingredients such as high fructose corn syrup and chemical additives with hard to pronounce names.