About 80 percent of all cardiovascular diseases are preventable. But between hectic work schedules, social events, and daily life, it’s easy to lose track of your health and get stuck in a rut. The good news is that simple changes, like adding in a morning walk or swapping sparkling water for soda, can lead to meaningful health benefits.
The key is starting small. You don’t have to overhaul your life overnight. Even the simplest habit like going to bed at the same time every night can help set you on the right path.
Habits form when we do something so many times it becomes automatic. That’s why it can be so hard to break a habit or form a new one. But it’s totally possible---habit building just takes a lot of patience and time. Here are a few suggestions:
1. Mix up your food choices.
Choosing healthier foods can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Nearly half of all diabetes, heart disease, and stroke deaths are linked to diets high in salt or processed meat. Dropping your sodium intake to 1,500 mg/day, could decrease your blood pressure by 25.6% and reduce your risk of stroke by 14%. With that in mind, here are a few food-related goals to consider:
2. If you smoke, make a quit-plan.
Smoking is responsible for 1 in 4 deaths from cardiovascular disease. Even casual or “intermittent” smoking makes a difference. Intermittent smoking is associated with heart disease, aneurysms, lung cancer, and poor sperm function. If you smoke, even a little bit, consider making a quit plan. That could include:
3. Get moving in any way that works for you.
The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity (or an equal combination of both) every week. It doesn’t have to be every day and, if your current activity level is low, it also doesn’t have to happen overnight. You might try:
4. Face your sleep issues.
If you experience difficulty sleeping, this isn’t news to you: not getting enough sleep comes with health costs. It weakens your immune system and increases the likelihood of chronic conditions like depression, diabetes, and heart disease. This is especially true for people with sleep apnea. Untreated sleep apnea can increase your risk of dying from heart disease five fold, according to a Harvard Medical School study.
Despite these risks, about 1 in 3 Americans don’t get the recommended amount of sleep (at least 7 hours) on a regular basis. The good news is that because sleep is a challenge for so many people, there’s a lot of research about how to get a good night’s sleep. And it starts with these habits:
5. Brush your teeth.
Oral hygiene and heart health are closely related. A recent study found that gum (peridontal) disease increases your risk for cardiac disease. Another study found that compared to those who brush once per day, those who brushed twice a day had a 3% reduced risk for diabetes and those who brushed three times per day had an 8% reduced risk. Not everyone loves the dentist, but going to routine cleanings can help catch issues before they develop into bigger problems. Need help remembering to brush and floss?