Have you wondered if it’s possible to protect the health of your heart – even if your family history of heart disease is strong?

If you can halt the development or progress of cardiovascular disease?

If it’s possible to keep this most important pump working well so you can live a long, vibrant life?

Research has proven beyond a shadow of a doubt that when it comes to your heart, your lifestyle choices are crucial. There are key steps that protect and support heart health. But before we share our top 5 tips, it’s important to look at why they matter…

Why should you actively safeguard your ticker?

You’ve likely lost a loved one to heart disease. It’s an illness so common that someone dies from cardiovascular disease (CVD) every 34 seconds. A staggering 805,000 Americans suffer from a heart attack each year; many their first, others not. That means a heart attack strikes a fellow citizen every 40 seconds. Including those dubbed “silent” because the victim remains unaware that their heart has become damaged. Devastatingly, for some the first sign of a problem is a fatal heart attack.

Yet, for many of us there is much we can do. Evidence-based ways to significantly lower our risk and shield our hearts from harm. Here are our top 5 tips…

Maintain a healthy weight

If your waistline is more fulsome than it should be, consider this information the catalyst you need to take action. Because the benefits of a trim physique aren’t limited to your appearance.

As an article published in the journal, Circulation, said, obesity is an important contributor to the risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Factors like raised blood lipid levels (including the “bad” type of cholesterol, LDL), high blood pressure, sleep disorders, and type 2 diabetes. Maintaining a healthy weight, then, reduces risk.

How can you determine if you face a higher risk?

There are several methods. Let’s take a look…

  1. Waist circumference

Waist circumference refers to the measure around your waist. It tracks the narrowest part of your middle; between the lowest ribs and the top of the pelvis. At approximately the level of the belly button.

The American Heart Association recommends women maintain a waist circumference of under 35 inches. For men, that figure is below 40 inches.

  1. Waist-to-height ratio

As its name suggests, this measure compares your waist to your height measurement. The higher the ratio, the greater the risk of obesity-related cardiovascular disease. The ideal figure (pardon the pun) is below 0.50 for both women and men.

You can work out your waist-to-height ratio by dividing your waist measurement by your height measurement. (Or you can use this calculator)

  1. Waist-to-hip ratio

This measure compares your waist to your hip measurement. The higher the ratio, the more visceral — or “tummy” — fat you have.

As an article published in the Journal of the American Heart Association stated, an elevated ratio is “more strongly associated with the risk of [myocardial infarction, or heart attack] than body mass index in both sexes, especially in women.”

The ideal figure is below 0.80 for women and below 0.95 for men.

You can assess your waist-to-hip ratio by dividing your waist measurement by your hip measurement. (Or you can use this calculator)

These calculations enable you to honestly assess your shape and risk. If you discover you fall into a higher risk category, aim to whittle down your midriff. These articles will help you do this:

Building Better Eating Habits To Achieve Your Weight Loss Goals

Key Ways To Reverse Hormonal Weight Gain

4 Ways To Stimulate Weight Loss Naturally

Live a smoke-free life

Do you smoke?

There’s a good chance you already know that smoking increases your risk of cardiovascular disease. This habit hardens the arteries, causes inflammation, constricts the blood vessels, alters blood flow, and elevates your risk of premature death.

Living a smoke-free life is the better choice. Wonderfully, if you quit early — at 40 years of age or earlier — your risk of facing a smoking-related death drops by 90%.

Enjoy a diet rich in plants

There’s much confusion in the diet space…

What should you eat, what shouldn’t you eat?

Is this diet better, or that?

What is the best way to time your meals?

Regardless of what choices you make, one thing is true: consuming “hearty” amounts of fruits and vegetables is heart protective.

So, what should you eat?

Fruits and vegetables, nuts and legumes, oil, and whole grains. For the caffeine lovers amongst us, research gives tea and coffee the healthy heart nod.

What should you limit or avoid?

Juices and sweetened beverages, fries, refined grains, sweets, and animal foods (except fish).

Move often

If you love to workout at the gym, to hit the track, to get out on the sports field, to walk — to move your incredible body — keep going!

You’ve likely noticed that being physically fit does wonders for your body, mind, and emotions. It’s great for your heart too.

The Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans recommends enjoying upwards of 2 1/2 hours of moderate-intensity exercise each week. If that’s not your thing — if you’d rather push hard and fast — opt for at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise and two muscle strengthening sessions (gym, anyone) each week.

Manage stress well

The profound health consequences that arise from chronic stress are under-appreciated, even denied. We mutter statements like: “I’m not that stressed,” “My stress isn’t that bad,” “Others are more stressed than me.” But psychological strain hurts us nonetheless.

An article published in the journal, Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging, pointed out that ongoing stress raises a number of cardiovascular risk factors. High blood pressure, obesity, and type 2 diabetes included. Yes, emotional and mental strain can contribute to the development and worsening of CVD.

Need to get your stress under control?

Discover our top 7 Ways To Reduce Stress now.

The healthy heart takeaway

What you do — the lifestyle choices you make — matter massively to the health of your heart. You can significantly lower your risk of cardiovascular disease, the ill health that accompanies this condition, and a premature grave by choosing well.

Maintain an ideal weight; the size of your waistline in particular. Live a smoke-free life. Enjoy a diet rich in plants. Move often and for significant periods of time. And manage your stress well. Consider these 5 steps the secret to a healthy, long-lasting ticker and life!