Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the United States, but there are a number of things you can do to protect yourself, a cardiologist says.
"Heart disease kills hundreds of thousands of Americans each year, but many of these conditions are preventable," said researcher Dr. David Slotwiner, chief of the division of cardiology at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens.
"Exercise, a balanced diet and avoiding high-risk activities like smoking are some of the best ways to keep your heart healthy," he said in a hospital news release.
Slotwiner's cardiology team offered the following tips on preventing heart disease, for February, which is Heart Health Month.
- Eat plenty of whole, plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds. Cut down on refined or processed foods such as white bread, crackers and cookies, as well as sugary beverages such as soda and fruit juice.
- Avoid trans fats, which are found in packaged baked goods, snack foods, margarine and fried fast foods. Trans fats can increase your risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Don't smoke. Exposure to tobacco smoke contributes to about 34,000 premature heart disease deaths a year, according to the American Heart Association.
- Get enough sleep -- seven to eight hours a night. If you have sleep apnea, get it treated. The condition is linked to heart rhythm problems and heart disease.
- Have your blood pressure checked every time you get a physical.
- Get regular exercise (at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week) and control your stress through healthy methods such as meditation, yoga, exercise or spending time with friends and family.
- Take care of your teeth and gums. People with gum disease often have the same risk factors for heart disease.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute offers a guide to a healthy heart.
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