Now that I have your attention, take a minute to check out this heart-wreck check-list. If you or your loved ones are taking bad advice to heart, it’s time to pause, recharge, and reboot.
1) Smoke or hang around with smokers! Despite higher cigarette prices, advertising caveats, and public smoking bans, people are still smoking. Smoking is the most dangerous – and most reversible – risk factor for heart disease. Quitting smoking and avoiding second-hand smoke today will lower your heart disease risk to a that of a nonsmoker in just two years.
2) Buy more groceries with trans fats! Ever wonder why that six-month-old pastry stays so tasty? Or how those fries crunch, chips snap, and wrapped snacks don’t expire until after your next high school reunion? It’s all thanks to trans fats, a factory-derived “solution” to fresh food and unprocessed baked goods. Trans Fats offer no nutritional value and wreak havoc on your cholesterol. Avoiding all trans fats will reduce your risk of heart disease and add some real flavor to your groceries.
3) Add salt! Do you add salt to boiling water, stir-fried veggies, or your dinner plate without even stopping to taste the food beforehand? Think of your table salt as coming with a side dish of blood pressure medication. Eating a lower salt diet can lower your blood pressure by five points — which for many people can mean one less prescription. Use that co-pay instead to stock up on garlic, pepper, oregano, and other no-sodium seasoning.
4) Gain some weight! This one is unfortunately all too easy. Processed food, gargantuan portions, and increased screen time have conspired to add inches to our waistline and layers of risk to our hearts. As we grow older, our metabolisms slow. This means that we need to adapt, watch our diets, and maintain our activity levels as we age. Losing just ten pounds can reduce your risk of heart disease by as much as 50% when you consider the positive impact on your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. Just ten pounds.
5) Stop taking your medications! There are lots of excuses — inconvenience, side effects, and don’t forget cost. No one likes to take pills. But we know that blood pressure, cholesterol, and diabetes medications not only make your laboratory tests look pretty, but will also reduce your likelihood of a heart attack. Risk factors for heart disease are painfully silent, and uncomfortably asymptomatic. It turns out that you can feel good but still be at risk. Talk to your doctor about a medication regimen that will work for you — and stick with it!