As part of my New Year’s resolution, I’m trying to live healthier. What are some little things I can do to improve my heart health?
Heart disease is the leading cause of death among men, claiming the lives of one in every four men. Despite these statistics, many men are unaware of their risk or how the decisions they make every day could be impacting that risk.
Find a primary care doctor you like—and visit them every year
Your personal and family health history are two factors that can make a major difference for your heart disease risk. But you shouldn’t wait until you have a heart problem to address these factors.
An annual appointment with your primary care provider can help you understand your genetic risk for certain health conditions, as well as provide you a roadmap for how to manage co-morbidities like high blood pressure, cholesterol or obesity. Your provider can also recommend screening and testing that can help you understand and reduce your risk for cardiac issues.
Quit smoking and vaping
Smoking is one of the most significant risk factors for heart disease, and men are more likely than women to smoke or use vaping products. One of the best things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your general health is to quit using tobacco products or any e-cigarettes or pens that allow you to inhale smoke or vapor of any kind.
If you currently smoke, Main Line Health offers free, six-week smoking cessation classes. If you are currently a smoker or have quit within the past 15 years, your health care provider might also recommend a lung cancer screening.
Take control of high blood pressure
Another risk factor that is more common among men is high blood pressure.
“There are a variety of biological and behavioral reasons why high blood pressure is more common among men. One of the reasons for this disparity is hormonal, but men are also more likely to be overweight or obese and less likely to be active,” explains Dr. Valentino.
Fortunately, high blood pressure is something that can be managed with the help of a primary care provider or cardiologist. To keep your blood pressure within a healthy range, focus on good nutrition, regular exercise, stress management and moderating alcohol consumption.
Find healthy ways to deal with stress
Stress can happen to anyone but men often have a harder time than women trying to find healthy outlets for stress.
“Men have the same stressors that women do—career, marriage, family, finance, health—but they are more likely to suppress how they’re feeling and put on a strong façade to push through it,” says Dr. Valentino. “Letting this stress build up can affect your mental health, but it also manifests itself physically through high blood pressure.”
Instead of pushing aside stress, identify healthy ways to cope with it. Exercise can be a healthy outlet for stress or anxiety, but you might also try new tactics like mindfulness, meditation, reading or just setting aside time to sit quietly and recharge after a stressful day. If you’re feeling especially overwhelmed or stressed, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Limit your weekly alcohol intake
Moderating your alcohol intake can reduce your risk for a number of chronic diseases, including diabetes, cancer and heart disease. To help manage your risk, limit the number of alcoholic beverages to no more than two per day. Remember: a drink doesn’t mean filling your glass until it’s full—one drink is defined as:
- 12 fluid ounces of beer
- Five fluid ounces of wine
- 1.5 fluid ounces of distilled spirits
Make your heart a priority
The best way to manage your heart disease risk is to make your health a priority—no matter what else is on your plate.
“Prioritizing healthy behaviors and annual appointments with a primary care provider is the best way to proactively manage your risk for heart disease and other chronic conditions,” says Dr. Valentino.
Main Line Health serves patients at hospitals and health centers throughout the western suburbs of Philadelphia. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.