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Socrates A. Garrigos, MD, PA

6 Habits for a Healthy Heart

Nov 14, 2023
6 Habits for a Healthy Heart
Heart disease may be the leading cause of death in the United States, but there’s a lot you can do to limit your cardiovascular risks. Here are six effective habits that can help you maintain a strong, healthy heart for life.

Heart disease claims nearly 700,000 lives in the United States each year, or about two lives per minute. As the leading cause of mortality among American men and women alike, this common — and largely preventable — chronic illness is responsible for 20% of all deaths (one in five) in the nation.

Statistics show that nearly half of American adults have at least one risk factor for heart disease (hypertension, high cholesterol, smoking). Even more concerning, half of adults currently have some form of heart disease. 

But it’s not all bad news: No matter where you stand on this statistical spectrum, there are concrete steps you can  start taking today to improve your cardiovascular health and protect against heart disease. Here at Socrates A. Garrigos, MD, PA, preventive medicine expert Dr. Socrates Garrigos and our skilled team offer six ways to make your heart healthier. 

1. Control your numbers 

High blood pressure (hypertension) and high cholesterol may not be conditions that you can feel, but they’re two of the top major risk factors for heart disease. When your blood pressure and cholesterol levels rise unchecked, so does your risk of developing heart disease.

Sometimes, you may need medication to move your numbers in the right direction. But often, the very same lifestyle strategies that support cardiovascular health (wholesome eating patterns, regular physical activity, and effective weight management) can also help you achieve and maintain healthy blood pressure and blood cholesterol levels. 

2. Watch your weight

The more excess fat you carry in your body, the higher your risk of heart disease. Why? Besides making your heart work harder and placing your entire cardiovascular system under stress, being overweight increases your likelihood of developing numerous chronic conditions that directly link to heart disease, from hypertension and high cholesterol to type 2 diabetes

Eating fewer calories and getting more active can help you achieve safe, sustainable weight loss (i.e., one to two pounds a week) and reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Losing just 10% of your total weight can make a real difference to your cardiovascular health. 

3. Get plenty of exercise 

Just as a sedentary, inactive lifestyle boosts your risk of developing heart disease, a fit, active body that moves every day helps foster a strong heart and improved cardiovascular health. You don’t have to join the nearest gym or tackle intense workouts to benefit, either. 

If you don’t exercise, getting on your feet more often is an easy way to switch from sedentary to active. Simply get up off the couch or out of your chair frequently, take the stairs whenever possible, and go for a brisk walk most days of the week. 

And remember, as far as your heart is concerned, three 15-minute walks are the same as one 45-minute walk — it’s all about getting out there and moving your body. 

4. Eat heart-healthy foods

Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds, fatty fish, lean protein sources, and plant-based unsaturated fatty acids form the foundation of a heart-healthy, anti-inflammatory eating plan that’s rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and dietary fiber.   

 But eating for cardiovascular health is just as much about what you don’t put on your plate; in that regard, a heart-healthy diet is also low in sodium and saturated fats, limits added sugars, and eliminates trans fats. Switching from ultra-processed food products to whole foods is one of the most effective ways to keep your heart strong and protect it as you age. 

5. Make sleep a priority

Any lifestyle practice that promotes general good health also advances heart health, which is true for dietary and activity habits and also for sleep habits. Getting enough sleep is a vital support pillar for both your overall health and your cardiovascular health. 

When you routinely get fewer than six hours of sleep each night (instead of the recommended seven to nine hours) it can set the stage for high blood pressure, weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and chronic systemic inflammation — all major heart disease risk factors. 

6. Live a tobacco-free life

As a major risk factor for heart disease, smoking is one of the worst things you can inflict on your cardiovascular system. Smokers are twice as likely as non-smokers to suffer a heart attack (and twice as likely to die from it), and nearly five times more likely to die from heart disease. Smokers also tend to develop heart disease up to five years earlier than non-smokers.   

Your partner in heart health

Ready to learn more heart-healthy habits? Dr. Garrigos and our team at Socrates A. Garrigos, MD, PA, are here to help. Call us today, or use our online booking feature to schedule a visit at our office in McAllen, Texas, any time.