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Improved Heart Health Starts With Making Good Choices and Decisions

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and around the world. The CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention) keeps track of a number of statistics and they happened to report that heart disease took the lives of nearly 700,000 Americans in 2021 alone. As alarming as this statistic is, there is good news: Heart disease and other cardiovascular conditions are largely preventable, especially when people develop healthy habits and make healthy choices early in their lives.
While it's best to have avoided risk factors in the first place, the human body possesses a remarkable ability to repair itself, and people can drastically reduce their risk of heart disease by making positive changes even if their heart health has already begun to slip.
While it's not an exhaustive list, adopting these four choices and behaviors into one's daily routine can have a profound impact on heart health, improve quality of life and help people avoid serious, life-threatening cardiovascular events.

1 - Avoid or Quit Smoking

Smoking has declined significantly in the United States. In 1965, about 42.4% of American adults smoked, according to the American Lung Association. In 2015, that number was just 13.7%, which is a monumental decrease. Today, that number continues to decline. Nonetheless, there are still more than 40 million smokers in the United States.

Smoking is one of the leading risk factors for heart disease and is also linked to lung disease, emphysema, high blood pressure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and several types of cancer. No matter how long a person has smoked, quitting greatly reduces serious health risks.

2 - Dietary Improvements

Poor diets are linked to all kinds of health problems. In addition to heart disease and stroke, poor nutrition can lead to:

  • Obesity
  • Type-2 diabetes
  • Depression
  • Heart attack and stroke
  • High blood pressure and cholesterol
  • Certain cancers

People should aim for a diet that is rich in fresh fruits and vegetables and healthy fats, such as those found in nuts and fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, cod, bluefin tuna, herring and anchovies; they should enjoy foods that are high in sodium, sugars and saturated fats only in moderation. It's also a good idea to avoid foods that are highly processed and contain lots of artificial ingredients.

3 - Adequate Oral Hygiene

Everyone knows that poor oral hygiene leads to tooth decay, gum disease and bad breath. What a lot of people don't know, however, is that poor oral hygiene can have cardiovascular consequences as well. As a 2016 publication by the University of Florida points out, plaque, when not removed by daily brushing and flossing, hardens into tartar. Over time, tartar buildup leads to gum disease, which causes the gums to become inflamed and bleed easily. In most cases, gum disease can be reversed by a dentist. When left untreated, though, gum disease can progress into periodontitis. Periodontitis causes the gums to literally pull away from the teeth, which creates pockets in the gums that are highly susceptible to infection. This enables bacteria from the mouth to enter the bloodstream, which is a serious risk factor for blood clots and heart attacks.

4 - Physical Activity

While some people enjoy regular and even high-intensity exercise, a lot of people see it as more of a chore. Nonetheless, getting regular exercise is one of the most important things people can do to stay on top of their heart health. The human body is designed to move, and a sedentary lifestyle poses numerous health risks. Additionally, it's extremely important to exercise for people who already have heart disease as it can strengthen the heart, improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. Exercise doesn't have to be grueling to be beneficial. The CDC states that adults who engage in 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, such as brisk walking or swimming, reap numerous health benefits and lower their risk of heart attack and stroke. This means that exercising for just 30 minutes per day for five days per week is enough to improve your heart health.

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