Every day, we’re doing things to tire out our ticker, and may not even know it. The stats prove it: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 610,000 people die from heart disease in the United States every year. This means that one in four deaths that occur annually is the result of heart disease or some type of cardiac event.
Fortunately, identifying your bad habits, and changing them easily and effectively, can lead to a happier and healthier life. Keep reading to find out how.
You Ignore These Physical Symptoms
You know your body well, so you can usually gauge when something is off. So don’t brush off the symptoms of your heart asking for help. Time is crucial when attempting to minimize the damage from heart disease or other cardiovascular events.
The quicker you seek treatment, the less likely you’ll suffer from permanent damage that can’t be reversed. “It’s better for it to be much ado about nothing than sitting on a heart attack for six hours,” says Dr. Robert J. Ostfeld, MD, MS from the Cardiac Wellness Program at Montefiore.
The Remedy Rx: Depending on the type of cardiovascular event or condition you’re experiencing, you could feel a wide range of physical symptoms, including:
- Chest pain.
- Shortness of breath.
- Pain, numbness, weakness, or coldness in your legs or arms.
- Pain in your jaw, throat, back, or upper abdomen.
- Fluttering in your chest.
- Swelling in your legs, hands, ankles, or feet.
- Skin rashes or skin spots.
- A dry cough that won’t go away.
If you’re experiencing sudden shortness of breath, chest pain, or fainting, visit your local emergency room as soon as possible. If you’re experiencing any of the other heart disease symptoms, make an appointment with your doctor to get it checked out.
You’re Being Too Hard on Yourself
If you want to be your own heart health champion, you may be tempted to make tons of drastic changes to your lifestyle as soon as possible. But drastic changes to your diet and daily physical activity can make you burn out fast. If you implement strict dieting tactics that you know aren’t realistic or sustainable, you may crash hard and become even more unhealthy than you were to begin with.
Starting an exercise routine that’s too tough can lead to extremely sore muscles, injuries, and a lack of motivation to do any physical activity at all. Dr. Judith S. Hochman, MD, from the Cardiovascular Clinical Research Center at NYU’s Langone Medical Center, says, “I see so many people in their 40s and 50s dive into exercising with good intentions, hurt themselves, and then stop exercising all together.”
The Remedy Rx: According to the AHA, if you want to start eating a healthy diet, keep it simple by beginning to eliminate non-nutritious foods and incorporating more nutrient-dense foods into your diet. This should include more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and legumes. If exercise just isn’t fitting into your schedule, try tricking yourself into getting moving by parking far away from your destination or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Eventually, make the time for exercise and work harder to weed out unhealthy foods from your diet.
You’re Not Drinking Enough Water
Water is essential for all bodily functions, but it also plays an important role in your heart health. If you stay hydrated, your heart’s job of pumping blood through the blood vessels and into your muscles is much easier
Your heart pumps about 2,000 gallons of blood a day, so the least you can do is give it the water it needs to efficiently do its job. According to Dr. John Batson, MD, from Lowcountry Spine & Sport in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, “If you’re well hydrated, your heart doesn’t have to work as hard.”
The Remedy Rx: To make it easy on your heart, it’s important to stay hydrated during your normal daily activities, and even more so when you’re performing physical activities or you’re in a hot environment. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, men should drink about 15.5 cups of water per day and women should drink about 11.5 cups.
Thirst is a sign you’re already dehydrated, so drink water before you even feel thirsty. Keep in mind, when you’re spending time outside or doing something physical, you may need to bump up the number of sips you take.
You Try Out Crazy Diet Fads
Yo-yo dieting or jumping on the latest diet fad is not only frustrating, it can also lead you to experience extreme weight fluctuations. If you adapt a diet that isn’t sustainable for the long-term, you’re more likely to fall off the healthy eating wagon and into the deep end of junk food and overindulgence. This makes it more likely that you’ll not only gain back any weight that you lost but also put on extra weight. And research shows that getting into a vicious cycle of gaining and losing weight can be hard on your heart.
A study funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute found that “Repeatedly losing and regaining weight, known as weight cycling or yo-yo dieting, may increase the risk of death from heart disease among postmenopausal women who were of normal weight at the start of the study.”
The Remedy Rx: Avoid these extreme weight swings by implementing a healthy diet you know you can stick with. Don’t jump on diet fads that are too extreme, restrictive, or that emphasize one type of food or nutrient more than the others. Maintaining a healthy weight and eating foods that are good for your body will keep your heart functioning better than if you continue to experience dramatic weight fluctuations.