Living in a fast-paced world often leaves little time for making those drastic lifestyle changes that doctors recommend; after all, it’s difficult to plan a balanced meal when fast food chains offer quick and cheap alternatives, and it’s tough to get motivated to exercise with a schedule packed with work, family, and television.
But it’s these artery-clogging foods and sedentary activities that increase obesity rates and lead to heart attacks. By making 3 simple changes to your lifestyle, you can improve the health of your heart and your body.
3 Ways to Prevent Heart Disease
1. Eat Like the Greeks
Greek men have longer life expectancies than men in other European and North American countries, and it’s likely that the traditional Greek diet has a lot to do with this. Olive oil, legumes, vegetables, seafood, and wine are all common foods that are consumed in Mediterranean countries.
Related Article: 5 Advantages of the Mediterranean Diet
A recent study at the University of Athens in Greece showed that individuals who ate foods commonly associated with a Mediterranean diet had CRP (C-reactive protein) levels that were 20% lower than those who didn’t eat like the Greeks; this is important because CRP has been linked to an increased risk of coronary heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. Simply replacing butter with olive oil and choosing seafood over other meat can positively impact your heart health.
2. Don’t Smoke Cigarettes
Smoking cigarettes has been one of the leading causes of heart disease and cancer in the U.S. for decades. The good news is that the amount of smokers in the United States has been steadily decreasing over the last few years; the bad news is that smoking is becoming more common in Asian countries like China and India.
While many people think that smoking only causes breathing problems and lung cancer, the reality is that 20% of deaths from heart disease have a direct correlation to smoking. Smoking reduces oxygen in the heart, increases blood pressure and clotting, and damages the cells that line coronary arteries, leading to coronary artery disease.
Related Article: What Happens To Your Body When You Quit Smoking
To quit smoking, you have to be both mentally and emotionally prepared. It’s a difficult path, often fraught with plenty of cravings, but the end result is a healthier heart. Learn how to stop-smoking with proven tips & tricks, here.
3. Take a Walk
It sounds ridiculous that something so simple could have an immense impact on your health, but it’s true.
Exercise doesn’t have to come in the form of running on the treadmill or lifting weights for an hour at the gym; simply going for a walk a few times a week can reduce the chance of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, and high cholesterol.
In addition, walking makes you feel good and can help trim your waistline. And that metaphor about exercise only being effective if you’re sore the next day isn’t true: research shows that brisk walking can reduce the probability of a heart attack on the same scale that jogging does.
Related Article: 11 Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy
Although the development of heart problems is certainly influenced by genetics, healthy lifestyle changes can have a massive impact. So eat foods that are part of the Mediterranean diet, don’t smoke, and get regular exercise if you want to prevent heart disease so you can live a long and healthy life.
Featured photo by tarotastic
Originally published 10/24/12 and updated 8/9/13.