3 Simple Lifestyle Choices to Make Now — and Avoid Heart Health Problems Later
Nearly half of all U.S. adults have some type of cardiovascular disease, and each year, approximately 610,000 Americans die of heart disease — which makes it the leading cause of death for both men and women. And the numbers are even worse in low-income countries. Worldwide, an estimated 17.9 million deaths each year are caused by cardiovascular disease, and 85 percent are due to heart attacks and strokes.
According to Dr. Allen Amorn, a cardiac electrophysiologist who has spent several years working in the hospital and health care industry, here are three simple — yet high-impact — lifestyle choices that people can make right now to help avoid heart health problems down the road:
1. Replace Trans Fats with Healthy Fats
Trans fats increase levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol and decrease levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol. This creates a build-up of fatty deposits that can clog blood vessels, and potentially lead to a heart attack. HDL cholesterol-boosting foods include flax, nuts, fruits that are high in fiber, extra virgin olive oil, whole grains, beans and legumes. Commented Dr. Amorn, who has a special interest in complex catheter ablation including atrial fibrillation, ventricular tachycardia, and post MAZE atrial flutter: “It is important to read ingredient labels before purchasing or preparing certain foods. Trans fats appear on the list of ingredients as partially hydrogenated oils and are used in everything from commercially baked goods to coffee whitener.”
2. Get Enough Quality Sleep
People who do not get enough quality sleep are at higher risk of developing coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease, regardless of other factors such as smoking, weight, age and exercise habits. Commented Dr. Allen Amorn, who is skilled in all heart rhythm related device implantations including traditional pacemakers, implantable cardioverter/defibrillators (ICDs), cardiac resynchronization (CRTs), left atrial appendage occlusion (LAAOs), leadless pacemakers, and subcutaneous ICD (S-ICDs): “One of the keys to getting a good night’s sleep is to turn off smartphones and stay away from computer and TV screens in the evening. These devices emit short-wavelength blue light, which impedes both the amount and quality of sleep. Striving to sleep at a regular time also helps the body prepare for and get the most benefits from sleep.”
3. Wash Your Hands Often
Regular hand washing helps reduce the spread of infections such as the flu and pneumonia, which put a strain on the heart and force it to work harder — which can be particularly problematic for children, the elderly, and those with weak or compromised immune systems. Allen Amorn states that people should keep in mind that costly antibacterial soaps are no more effective at killing germs than regular soaps, and in the long-run may even be harmful. If soap and water are not available, then hand sanitizers can be a good alternative if they contain at least 60 percent alcohol.
The Bottom Line
While the statistics on cardiovascular disease-related illnesses and deaths are certainly daunting, there are some relatively simple lifestyle changes that people can make right now to lower their risk, and possibly extend their life by several years. Dr. Allen Amorn concludes by stating: “what’s more, smart lifestyle changes can boost overall and immune system functioning, which can help fend off other illnesses.”