3 Tips to Help You Prevent Heart Disease

The leading cause of death for both men and women is heart disease, according to the CDC. Nearly one in four deaths each year are the cause of a heart attack. Those are some scary numbers, and unfortunately, there isn't anything you can do to completely prevent you from having a heart attack. However, there are several things that you can do to lower your risk.

Quit Smoking

The risk of smokers developing coronary heart disease is double that of non-smokers. There are chemicals in tobacco smoke that damage the way your heart and blood vessels function and harm your blood cells. Also, when you smoke cigarettes over an extended amount of time, plaque builds up and hardens in your arteries, which restricts the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your heart and other vital organs.

Smoking in any amount increases your risk of developing heart disease, so you should consider quitting altogether. Additionally, do your best to stay away from secondhand smoke. Breathing in secondhand smoke can cause your blood pressure to increase, and eventually damage some of your heart tissue.

Use Olive Oil When Cooking

When you're cooking opt for olive oil over other oils or butter. Olive oil is a monounsaturated oil that helps increase your body's good cholesterol (HDL) and reduce the amount of bad cholesterol (LDL) in your body. Additionally, olive oil is rich in antioxidants, which may help you reduce the risk of other chronic diseases such as cancer or Alzheimer's disease.

In addition to butter and margarine, olive oil is a good substitute for vegetable oil when you're baking. Keep in mind, your best option is extra virgin olive oil because it's extracted using natural methods that help it retain its purity.

Get Enough Sleep

Sleeping allows your body to rest completely. Both your blood pressure and heart rate drop when you're asleep, because your heart doesn't need to work as hard to pump blood throughout your body. When you're deprived of sleep, your heart rate increases—similar to the way it increases when you're stressed. So do your best to get seven to eight hours of sleep each night. If you can't manage that, try to get at least an extra hour of sleep nightly—it'll reduce your risk of coronary artery calcification by about 33 percent.

If your goal is to lower your risk of having a heart attack, you need to do your best to develop habits that are heart healthy. Take the time to contact local heart care services such as Barnes-Jewish St. Peters Hospital for more prevention tips.