5 Ways to Reduce the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Find out how to reduce your risk of getting cardiovascular disease (CVD).

According to the American Heart Association, about 82.6 million people in the United States have some form of cardiovascular disease (CVD), including rheumatic heart disease and coronary heart disease.

5 Ways to Reduce the Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
Lifestyle Changes for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention. Image/Pexels

Cardiovascular diseases remain one of the leading causes of death in the country. On a wider scale, they are the cause of at least 32% of deaths globally as reported by the World Health Organization.

In this guide, we look into how a few changes in the way you live can help reduce the risk of CVD.

Understanding the Nature of CVDs

CVDs are preventable since they are mostly caused by behavioral factors. WHO reports that the risk of developing these conditions points to a person’s lifestyle and eating habits.

To some extent, an individual’s environment can also play a role in the development of a CVD.

However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes the role of genetics and how a person’s upbringing (specifically their exposure to the unhealthy lifestyles of family members) can raise the risk of heart disease.

You can reduce the likelihood of CVD by making significant lifestyle changes and applying preventive measures. Here are a few things you can do to guard your heart.

#1 Know your level of risk

Before you set out on your journey toward improving your cardiovascular health, you need to know how at-risk you are for CVD. A visit to the doctor is crucial to detect and prevent the onset of heart disease.

During your appointment, your doctor may recommend that you undergo several tests including a lipid profile to detect high cholesterol levels and a BNP test to check for abnormalities in the blood vessels.

The earliest signs of CVD can be detected easily. If you experience fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pains, and numbness in the arms and legs, you may need to have yourself checked and determine the next steps you need to take to reduce your risk.

Even in the absence of these symptoms, you should also pay close attention to your family background and look for patterns showing a hereditary form of CVD.

While there are new medical developments like gene therapy that could help address inherited heart diseases, changing your lifestyle is still the best way toward optimal cardiovascular health despite your family’s medical history.

#2 Quit smoking and drinking

The first step to a healthier cardiovascular system is getting rid of bad habits such as smoking. A lot has been said about the effects of tobacco. Apart from the fact that it causes cancer and birth defects, the chemicals in smoke are well-known to increase the risk of stroke and coronary heart disease.

Quitting the habit cuts the risk of developing CVD. Your overall health also improves over time as you avoid smoking or even using e-cigarettes or vaping.

Alcohol also increases the risk of CVD. While there are studies suggesting that alcohol can be good for the heart, consuming too much is still dangerous.

Binge drinking and long-term alcohol abuse can increase a person’s heart rate. This in turn leads to the development of hypertension and other types of CVDs that may have a lasting effect on the body. For this reason, you need to watch the amount you drink.

If you resort to smoking and drinking as a form of stress relief, you might want to consider looking for ways to control your habits. Nicotine patches are effective in helping you control your impulse to smoke.

In case you have a problem with excessive drinking, you might want to attend a small group session with others who also struggle to quit. Quitting these bad habits can contribute positively to your cardiovascular health and prevent the onset of CVDs.

#3 Get a proper amount of exercise

Exercise has always been recommended as an effective way to boost your cardiovascular well-being. Physical activity not only boosts your mood through the production of “feel good” hormones, but it also helps you steer clear of heart diseases.

In a 2018 study, even a small amount of exercise can lead to a reduction in mortality risk since it lowers blood pressure and increases insulin sensitivity.

However, too much exercise could be detrimental. According to the same study, marathon runners who undergo rigorous training have the same level of cardiovascular risk as people with congenital heart defects. Moderation should be observed when working out, so you must choose your activities and the amount of time you spend on each one.

To be sure, consider getting a personal fitness trainer to help you identify a routine that suits your body-mass index. You also need a workout program that provides ample time for rest.

For starters, go for a brisk walk and work your way toward jogging around the neighborhood. Swimming can also reduce your blood pressure and strengthen your heart muscles.

#4 Adopt a balanced diet

Your eating habits play an important role in reducing the risk of CVD, so you need to know what types of food to eat, which ones to consume less, and which ones to avoid altogether.

To optimize your heart health, an article from the Harvard School of Public Health suggests adopting a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, fish, and whole grains.

Drinking alcohol is also encouraged, but only in moderation. In a study published in Alcohol Research and Health, moderate drinkers have a lower risk of CVD and, thus, a lower mortality rate.

Drinking alcohol shouldn’t be recommended for individuals who are at a higher risk of developing symptoms of alcohol abuse.

There is a long list of food you shouldn’t consume since it can enhance the risk of CVD, including everything from processed meat products to high-sodium snacks like potato chips and french fries. Food with high sugar content should also be avoided.

Your doctor may advise you to eat smaller portions whenever you can, but you are better off using natural sweeteners such as honey or stevia.

#5 Learn to manage stress

Do you work in a stressful environment? Are you prone to burnout? Your mental well-being influences your physical health, and stress can lead to behaviors and lifestyles that can pose a significant risk to cardiovascular health.

For one, people who are exposed to high-pressure work environments tend to develop persistent smoking habits according to a 2013 study.

WHO, meanwhile, reports a link between a higher risk of CVD and working for 55 hours or more per week.

With this in mind, people need to develop healthy habits for managing stress. Apart from adopting time management strategies, high-risk individuals should also spend ample time for rest. Practicing mindfulness is also a sure-fire way to control a person’s response to stressful situations and attain peace of mind.

In this sense, meditation provides a cost-effective and immediate means of reducing stress levels, although further research is needed to establish the beneficial effects of meditation on heart health.

Getting enough sleep is also crucial to reducing the risk of CVD. According to the CDC, people who experience insomnia are more likely to develop cardiovascular abnormalities including high blood pressure.

Lacking sleep is just as detrimental since people who are unable to sleep more than seven hours a day are more likely to take up unhealthy habits.

For this reason, you should set a regular sleeping schedule and limit the amount of caffeine and alcohol you consume so you can fall asleep easier.

Also ReadWhat Are Decentralized Clinical Trials?

CVD remains to be a serious public health concern regardless of where you live and what you do. For this reason, you need to take the right steps and apply significant changes to your lifestyle so you can enjoy a fitter life.

6 sources

We review published medical research in respected scientific journals to arrive at our conclusions about a product or health topic. This ensures the highest standard of scientific accuracy.

1. Prevent Heart Disease https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/prevention.htm
2. How to Prevent Heart Disease https://medlineplus.gov/howtopreventheartdisease.html
3. Rippe JM. Lifestyle Strategies for Risk Factor Reduction, Prevention, and Treatment of Cardiovascular Disease. Am J Lifestyle Med. 2018;13(2):204-212. Published 2018 Dec 2. doi:10.1177/1559827618812395
4. How To Prevent Heart Disease https://health.clevelandclinic.org/four-factors-that-can-help-prevent-heart-disease/
5. Coronary heart disease Prevention https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronary-heart-disease/prevention/
6. Preventing Heart Disease https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/disease-prevention/cardiovascular-disease/preventing-cvd/
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Franz Gliederer, MD, MPH

Franz Gliederer (MD, MPH) is a specialist in Preventive Medicine with a Medical Doctorate from the University of Vienna, Austria, and a

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