Three Heart Healthy Habits to Start Today

Posted on Jul 26, 2022

Heart disease can occur at any age. That’s why you’re never too young or old to start heart-healthy living. If you have risk factors for heart disease like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, work closely with your doctor to reduce your risk. Below are three habits you can start today to improve your heart health.

Habit #1: Maintain or Achieve a Healthy Weight

Weight and heart health are linked in many ways. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to develop heart disease and stroke, even if those same people have no other risk factors.

Achieving a healthy weight can be difficult. Because everyone’s body is different, there is no “one size fits all” approach to weight loss. Figuring out the best formula for you can take time and experimentation, but there are a few simple changes that have proven effective for most people. They are:

  • Eat more vegetables
  • Reduce sodium intake
  • Consume less processed foods
  • Choose whole grains over refined grains
  • Decrease or eliminate added sugar from your diet

Maintaining a healthy weight comes with many health benefits, such as lowered blood pressure, improved cholesterol levels, and decreased risk of diabetes. Those who sustain a normal weight also experience improved mobility and reduced joint pain, making it easier to stay active. Talk to a healthcare provider if you need to lose weight and aren’t sure where to start. They can help you figure out a plan to get you on the path toward a healthier you!

Habit #2: Get Moving

Being active can help you to achieve a healthy weight, but the benefits to your heart don’t stop there.
Here are some of the ways that exercise can benefit your heart:

  • Lowers blood pressure
  • Improves blood flow
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Reduces risk of heart arrhythmia
  • Decreases risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes

Despite the benefits of exercise, you may be hesitant to begin. You can take small steps to get more exercise without pushing yourself too hard. Start by adding short walks to your day. Each day, walk a little farther to help your body build endurance. Eventually, you’ll be able to add running! Remember that positive lifestyle changes don’t have to happen all at once. Slowly adding habits to your daily routine increases the likelihood of sticking with those habits.

Habit #3: Stop Smoking

We all know that smoking damages our lungs, but did you know that it is terrible for your heart as well? Smoking can increase your blood pressure and put you at risk for stroke and atherosclerosis (thickening or hardening of the arteries).

Despite what we know about the dangers of smoking, it can be tough to quit. Here are some ways your heart benefits when you quit smoking:

  • Just 20 minutes after your last cigarette, blood pressure and pulse begin to lower to a normal level. 
  • Within 8 hours, carbon monoxide levels in your body become more normal, and oxygen levels in the blood increase. 
  • In 24 hours, your veins and arteries become less constricted as oxygen levels increase, reducing your risk for heart attack. 
  • Just two weeks after quitting, your circulation improves, and everyday actions become more manageable. 

The benefits continue long after two weeks; eventually, your health risks are similar to that of a nonsmoker. If you’re a smoker, it’s not too late to quit!

You can take many paths to improve heart health, but implementing any of these three habits is a great place to start! As always, if you have questions or concerns about your overall health or heart health, the providers at Mercer Medicine will answer your questions and make sure you get the care you need to feel great and live healthily.

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Mercer Medicine operates a primary care facility with specialty providers and services offered in-house located in downtown Macon. Mercer Medicine also has primary care clinics in Plains, Fort Valley, Fort Gaines and Eatonton to support Mercer University School of Medicine’s mission of serving rural and underserved areas across Georgia.