5 Surprisingly Low-Effort Ways to Reduce Your Risk of Heart Disease
Getting older comes with a unique set of challenges. One of those challenges is prioritizing heart health which may have taken a backseat in our younger years. We mistakenly believe there will always be time to “shape up,” ditch the Standard American Diet (SAD), and get our health back on the right track. But as Buddha once said, “The trouble is, you think you have time.”
Many of us tend to only set health and wellness goals for weight loss and improving our appearance, forgetting their importance on heart health and longevity. But if you’re alive and breathing, there’s still time to change course! Here’s what you need to know about heart disease.
Heart Disease is the #1 Global Killer—and It’s Preventable
Heart disease, a term for a group of different health conditions that affect the heart, is the number one leading cause of death globally. And despite it claiming more than 19 lives annually across the globe, heart disease is preventable. So understanding your risk and knowing what steps to take to reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease in the future is critical to living a long and healthy life.
The most common form of heart disease in the United States is called coronary artery disease (CAD). CAD often causes:
- Heart attack
- Heart failure
- Chest pain
- Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
Poor heart health doesn’t happen overnight. In fact, a lifetime of poor lifestyle choices can increase your risk of developing heart disease and dying prematurely. Knowing your risk factors and taking the appropriate steps now can help you to safeguard yourself from heart disease and keep you here for the people who love you the most for as long as possible.
What Are the Risk Factors for Heart Disease?
A staggering 84 percent of adults aged 65 and older die from heart disease. The biggest risk factors for heart disease include:
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Chronic kidney disease
- Poor cholesterol levels (Having high levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and low levels of good cholesterol (HDL)
We’ve heard over and over that preventing heart disease means eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, managing your weight, and swearing off everything delicious for the rest of your life, but what if there were easier, more practical steps you could take to improve your heart health?
Luckily, the journey to optimal health includes several routes to get you to the right destination. Let’s uncover a few surprisingly easy and high-impact heart-healthy hacks so you aren’t just here for a good time—but a long time, too!
- Make your plate more colorful. Instead of the added stress of trying to overhaul your entire diet overnight or make extreme changes that leave you feeling discouraged and unhappy, consider just adding more color to your plate! Mix up your dinner with bright and vibrant superfoods like pomegranates, sweet potato, and spinach.
- Keep your room dark and cool while you sleep. Studies show a direct link between poor sleep and cardiovascular disease, with a 54% increased risk. If you struggle to get adequate rest consistently, making just a few small changes could help you sleep more restfully. Start by making sure your room is completely dark and cool when you go to sleep. A cooler environment helps to lower your body temperature, making it easier for you to get deep sleep which is important for repairing and restoring your body each night. Even the tiniest glimpse of light—that of a television or nightlight—can disrupt your sleep patterns. Add light-blocking curtains to your bedroom and keep the thermostat between 66-70 degrees.
- Spend 10-15 minutes outdoors in the sun each morning. One easy and low-effort way to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease is to grab 10-15 minutes of morning sunlight outdoors within the first hour of waking. This is one way to regulate your circadian rhythm, or your internal clock, which regulates your hormones, cycles of alertness and sleepiness, and your appetite. This could be as simple as enjoying your morning coffee out in your front yard. You could even enjoy some time praying or meditating, which are both helpful for optimizing your mental health and clarity.
- Hawthorn berry. Native Americans, Europeans, and Chinese people have long valued the hawthorn shrub, including its fruit, leaves, and flowers, as a remedy for health problems. Hawthorn berry has been shown in studies to be effective at supporting heart health, lowering blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels, and may even help treat heart failure. As always, be sure to discuss any dietary or supplement changes with your doctor.
- Go for a 20-minute walk after dinner. The benefits of walking daily cannot be overstated. Did you know a daily step count of 8,000 steps or more is linked to a significant reduction in all-cause mortality (or death of any cause)? Committing to getting more daily movement does not have to be overwhelming or feel like an impossible chore. You don’t have to adopt nightly swimming classes or start training for a marathon. Walking can provide just as many benefits, if not more, than higher-intensity aerobic exercises like gardening and running! And choosing to walk after dinner especially can yield even more benefits to your health, like improved digestion, lowering your blood pressure, and curbing blood sugar spikes!
The bottom line is that making proactive, heart-healthy choices can be invigorating and exciting! The key is to avoid overcommitting yourself to extreme or unrealistic changes. Instead, embrace the excitement of what small, consistent changes can amount to. You’ll be amazed.
“Long-term consistency trumps short-term intensity.” —Bruce Lee