A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic Health System

Heart disease prevention: Small changes equal big results

Heart2Heart Kid - Small changes equal big results, prevent heart disease

In a series of short videos, Heart2Heart Kid identifies the most important tips for a healthy you and how to easily keep your heart healthy. Visit Heart2HeartKid.org for more.

Toss aside soda, strap on walking shoes and say “heck no” to late morning donuts.

Anyone at any age can make small changes to prevent heart disease.

Know your risk factors and modify your food and drink choices, activity level and stress causes.

“Begin with your primary care provider. Understanding your health status is the perfect starting spot to make small adjustments in your lifestyle,” said Dr. Brady Didion, a Marshfield Clinic Health System family medicine physician.

By dialing into the following five categories, you greatly improve your overall health and reduce your risk of heart disease. How cool is that?

1. Food choices

Are you going to eat that? Pay attention to your food choices. Many are high in sodium and sugar, which increase your risk of obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.

Make a small change: Eat more fruits and vegetables and monitor your salt and sugar intake.

2. Beverage choices

How do you hydrate? Your heart pumps nearly 2,000 gallons of blood every day.

Beverages like soda, sports drinks and energy drinks are loaded with caffeine and sugar. They fill your diet with unneeded calories and cause dehydration. In turn, your heart has to work harder to pump blood.

Make a small change: Replace sugary drinks with water. We suggest six to eight glasses per day.

3. Activity choices

A little activity goes a long way. Your heart is a muscle, and like all muscles in your body, it has to move to remain healthy.

Most of us are too sedentary. Moderate exercise like walking makes your heart happy and provides lifelong benefits.

“Try to make exercise fun. Consider swimming, rec basketball, snowshoeing or walking daily in the park,” Didion said. “If exercise is enjoyable, you’re much more likely to make it a daily or regular habit.”

Make a small change: Break a sweat. Add to your schedule 30 minutes of moderate exercise 3-5 times per week.

4. Numbers matter

Know your risk factors. Some things are just out of your control. For example, heart disease can start as early as 40.

Your doctor won’t ask you to get younger. However, he/she will check your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and BMI to assess your risk factors and make suggestions based on your heart disease risk.

Heart disease risk factors you can change include:

  • Smoking
  • Cholesterol
  • Blood pressure
  • Heart rate
  • Diabetes
  • Weight

Make a small change: Lose a few pounds, become more active, eat healthier, deal with your stress level and quit smoking. Conquer one, then move on to the next.

Make an appointment with your doctor,” Didion said. “Most insurance covers preventive visits. Together, you and your doctor can sort out your risks and determine best steps moving forward.”

5. Stress matters

Remember, too much stress is unhealthy. A lot of stress for long periods of times raises your blood pressure and can lead to self-medicating with smoking or drinking. (Hint, none of which make your heart happy.)

Take a break from bad stress:

A good night’s sleep also helps to reduce stress.

Make a small change: Learn to relax. A warm bath or yoga, your heart will thank you.

Tips like you’ve never heard ‘em before

Marshfield Clinic’s Heart2Heart Kid reminds us, “What’s good for your heart is good for your health.”

In a series of short videos, Heart2Heart Kid identifies the most important tips for a healthy you and how to easily keep your heart healthy.

View his videos, take quizzes and find a doctor at Heart2HeartKid.org.

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