Heart disease is often referred to as a silent killer because it seems to pop up out of nowhere and destroys seemingly healthy individuals. Although you cannot completely eliminate the risk of heart disease, there are some practical and simple ways to decrease your chances of having complications. The following ideas are important for maintaining heart health.



1. Avoid smoking or using tobacco
It is not just marketing propaganda from anti-tobacco organizations. The use of tobacco products is one of the biggest risk factors for developing heart disease. The chemicals found in tobacco are known to cause damage to your blood vessels and your heart. Ultimately, they can cause atherosclerosis which is the narrowing of the arteries.

It is also true that the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces oxygen in your blood, increases your blood pressure and forces your heart to work harder in order to supply the same amount of oxygen. However, it is not just cigarettes that are risky. Smokeless tobacco and secondhand exposure are also dangerous.

The good news is that it may not be too late. If you are a current smoker, you can stop now, and your risk of heart disease will drop into the normal nonsmoker range within approximately five years. Regardless of how long you have used tobacco products, you can still benefit from stopping today.

2. Focus on your diet
If you want to maintain a healthy heart, it is important that you understand the difference between good and bad foods. Heart-healthy foods include nuts, beans, oats, fruits, vegetables, fish and olive oil in moderation. Dangerous foods include processed meats, red meat, fried foods, soda and salty foods.

Although it may initially seem like a chore to maintain a healthy diet, it will eventually become easier. By eliminating processed foods from your diet and focusing on fresh, natural alternatives, you can reduce your risk of heart disease.

3. Get daily exercise
Regular exercise is an important component of maintaining a healthy heart. The key is to get exercise on a daily basis and not just on the weekends or every couple days. Research suggests 25 to 30 minutes of light exercise per day is enough to keep you healthy. This could come in the form of jogging, yoga, aerobic activity, cycling, swimming, dancing or anything else that requires you to keep your heart rate up for a prolonged period of time.

4. Control your weight
If you consume a healthy diet and get regular exercise, your weight may not be an issue. However, it is important to remember the importance of controlling your weight. Excess fat, particularly in the abdominal region, can put unnecessary stress on your heart. You can use a BMI calculator to evaluate your current situation and how to improve it. Even shedding a few pounds can make a big difference.

5. Laugh out loud (literally)
According to research from the University of Maryland Medical Center, regular laughter helps relieve the stress that damages the endothelium. It is the tissue that makes up the inner lining of your blood vessels and encourages blood to flow. Laughter also promotes healthier functioning of blood vessels and lowers your risk of heart disease. This means laughter really is the best medicine.

Know your numbers
It is important to have a healthy lifestyle and to stay aware of your progress. If you do not know your numbers, including blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and other important metrics, then you could be at risk without even knowing it. You want to schedule regular checkups with your physician, so heart disease cannot sneak up on you.

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