Heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women,i and the total numbers of deaths from heart disease are rising.ii Cardiovascular risk tends to accumulate over time — the roots of which can often be traced to lifestyle choices made in early adulthood.iii You can help change this trend by prioritizing and role modeling healthy behaviors for yourself and the people around you, including your family and friends.
It is important for adults to have an active lifestyle. The American Heart Association recommends being physically active every day.iv However, even if you’re inactive now, you should start out slow — even a few minutes at a time may offer some health benefits. Exercise not only helps control weight, but also strengthens the bones and heart.v Consider including your family or friends in your physical activities. Please check with your doctor before starting or changing any exercise regimen.
Another critical lifestyle habit is healthy eating. As adults, a healthy diet is one of the best weapons you have to fight heart disease. The food you eat, as well as the amount, can affect other risk factors like cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes and overweight.iv Consider choosing nutrient-rich foods and limiting intake of sweets and sugar-sweetened beverages.iv The people you see regularly as well as those you share a meal with will notice your decisions for healthy eating and they may choose to join you with their food selections.
While physical activity and nutrition can dramatically impact heart health in the long term,v sometimes diet and exercise are just not enough. You may need to take medication, especially if you have a family history of heart disease or if accumulated risk factors become pronounced. It’s critical that your family members see you doing the right thing, like, for example, adhering to a treatment regimen recommended by your doctor.vi And, if your cholesterol and/or triglyceride levels are elevated above normal levels, get the facts and be proactive in addressing these concerns with your doctor.vii
When you live a healthy life, you may enjoy the benefits of a healthier heart. What’s more, when your friends and family see you prioritizing things like eating well and exercising, or taking medication if you need to, they are more likely to do so as well. Being heart smart is important for everyone. You can take the lead and be a living example of a heart-healthy lifestyle. Start today and look forward to a healthier tomorrow for the people you care about.
[i] “Leading Causes of Death.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm
[ii] Benjamin EJ, Muntner P, Alonso A, Bittencourt MS, Callaway CW, Carson AP, Chamberlain AM, Chang AR, Cheng S, Das SR, Delling FN, Djousse L, Elkind MSV, Ferguson JF, Fornage M, Jordan LC, Khan SS, Kissela BM, Knutson KL, Kwan TW, Lackland DT, Lewis TT, Lichtman JH, Longenecker CT, Loop MS, Lutsey PL, Martin SS, Matsushita K, Moran AE, Mussolino ME, O’Flaherty M, Pandey A, Perak AM, Rosamond WD, Roth GA, Sampson UKA, Satou GM, Schroeder EB, Shah SH, Spartano NL, Stokes A, Tirschwell DL, Tsao CW, Turakhia MP, VanWagner LB, Wilkins JT, Wong SS, Virani SS; on behalf of the American Heart Association Council on Epidemiology and Prevention Statistics Committee and Stroke Statistics Subcommittee. Heart disease and stroke statistics—2019 update: a report from the American Heart Association. Circulation. 2019;139:e1–e473. doi:10.1161/CIR.0000000000000659
[iii] Northwestern University. "Lifestyle choices made in your 20s can impact your heart health in your 40s." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 March 2012. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/03/120302132426.htm
[iv] “Lifestyle Changes for Heart Attack Prevention.” American Heart Association, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/heart-attack/life-after-a-heart-attack/lifestyle-changes-for-heart-attack-prevention
[v] “Physical Activity and Young People.” Global Strategy on Diet, Physical Activity and Health, World Health Organization, 19 June 2015, www.who.int/dietphysicalactivity/factsheet_young_people/en/
[vi] Brown, MT and Bussell JK. “Medication adherence: WHO cares?” Mayo Clinic proceedings vol. 86,4(2011):304-14. Doi:10.4065/mcp.2010.0575
[vii] Gulati M. “Very High Triglycerides.” Cardio Smart, American College of Cardiology, Mar. 2019, www.cardiosmart.org/Heart-Conditions/High-Cholesterol/High-Cholesterol-Home/Very-High-Triglycerides