When most people think about heart disease, they believe that it mostly affects men. For too long, heart disease has been thought of as a man’s disease. The fact is that heart disease is the leading cause of death for women. Despite that scary statistic, there are many steps and actions that you can take that will help to keep your heart and body healthy. While the chance of developing heart disease depends on some things that are out of your control (like age, family history and genetics), there are many other factors that you can control. Small changes can lead to big improvements for your heart health.

I’ve partnered with Henry Ford Health System to discuss unhealthy habits that can be detrimental to your heart health. Ditch the unhealthy and harmful bad habits listed below and replace them with healthy habits that can make a massive difference in your heart health and overall wellness.

11 Bad Habits That Harm Your Heart + How to Break Them:

1. Being A Couch Potato

Exercise has been shown to improve and/or alleviate over 40 chronic health conditions such as heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, peripheral artery disease or cancer. Get up off the couch and start moving! Replace your evening TV session with a family walk or sign up for a stress relieving yoga class.

2. Break The Fast

Skipping breakfast could lead to overindulging throughout the day which means a higher intake of calories and often less-than-stellar food choices. Those who eat breakfast tend to consume less fat during the day, have lower cholesterol levels and are also less likely to be overweight. Skip the sugary cereals and reach for cereal that has no more than 3 grams of total fat per serving and at least 3 grams of dietary fiber per serving (5 grams is even better).

3. Putting Off Annual Exams

Although you may feel healthy, don’t skip your annual physical exams. Keeping up to date with your doctor and wellness visits is so important for your health, and allows you to get a more in depth glimpse into your health. Regular physician visits are incredibly important for monitoring your cardiovascular health by testing your cholesterol, blood pressure, hypertension risk factors, monitoring your weight and much more. Many heart issues can be preventable or managed as long as they are diagnosed! Assuming that you’re healthy or not at risk, can have terrible, detrimental or fatal effects if there is indeed a problem.

When it comes to heart health, the Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute in Detroit is a pioneer leading the way with their diagnoses, treatment, technology, and lifesaving techniques.

They even have an easy, interactive, online tool to assess your heart health called the Heart Health Risk Assessment. The quiz took me only 5 minutes to take and provided so much great information, including my heart age (based off of my health and risk factors), cardiovascular disease risk and information about my risk factors. The Heart Health Risk Assessment even provided a multi-page report that included so much detail into what risk factors I can change and ideas how to do so, which was so informative. I love that Henry Ford Health System follows the mindset that each patient needs individualized care; no one box fits all approach when it comes to your or your family’s heart health. When scheduling your yearly exam, don’t forget to look into their $99 heart screening. Your health is priceless….make it a priority!

4. Ignoring Stress

Letting stress fester is hard on your body and heart. Finding healthy ways to relax and release tension is absolutely necessary for ultimate wellness.

5. Smoking (or Being Around Smokers)

If you’re lighting up, stop now! There are numerous positive short and long-term effects that can be seen when someone stops smoking. Smoking increases the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, which include coronary heart disease and stroke. Smoking damages the lining of your arteries, leading to a buildup of fatty material which narrows the artery and could lead to angina, a heart attack, or a stroke.

6. Snacking on the Wrong Foods

Take control of snacking to provide your body with heart healthy foods that contain vitamins and nutrients that nurture your heart and body. Many people reach for high sodium, high sugar and high fat foods, like chips, fried foods, and sweets, instead of healthier options for snacks. Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with easy to grab options like fresh fruits and veggies, hummus, low fat yogurts, and nuts (almonds and walnuts especially). Sprinkle flaxseed on your meals to up your intake of heart happy omega-3 fatty acids and additional fiber.

7. Ignoring Symptoms

If you’re experiencing heart palpitations, tightness or pain in the chest or any other signs that something just isn’t right, don’t hesitate to visit your physician. Time is of the essence when it comes to heart issues and it’s always better to be safe than sorry.

8. Being Slack with Oral Health

Regular dentist visits not only keep your smile dazzling, but can effect your heart health. Professional cleanings help reduce inflammation causing bacterial growth which can could lead to heart inflammation. Don’t forget to floss too!

9. Overindulging

Ditch the mega sized portions and work towards reasonable portion sizes to avoid overeating. A good rule of thumb is:

  • A three-ounce portion of meat, poultry or fish = a woman’s palm.
  • A serving of cooked pasta, rice or hot cereal = hockey puck.
  • A serving of cheese = two dominoes.
  • A serving of cold cereal = a baseball.

10. Having the Race vs. Marathon Mindset (for Healthy Living Habits)

When many people strive to change their habits or diet, they get into an all or nothing mindset. While best interests are at heart, often time this all or nothing mindset leads to feelings of failure or becoming overwhelmed. Switching the marathon versus race mindset can be the difference between success or failure when it comes to healthy living. Working on changing unhealthy habits into healthier ones in small increments makes the transition easier. For example, instead of snacking on chips try healthier options like veggies and hummus. For physical activity, try gentle yoga or begin with short walks 4-5 days a week and work up to more strenuous exercises.

11. Not Eating a Balanced Diet

To reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure or cancer, the National Cancer Institute recommends eating five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Studies have shown that eating fruits and veggies can lessen chance of heart disease by 20%. Load at least half your plate with fruits and veggies at each meal. When choosing proteins, stick to lean proteins like chicken or turkey and be mindful of how much red meat is in your diet.

For those looking to continue to explore and improve their cardiovascular health, the Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute has a comprehensive Heart Smart® Screening Program to help you better manage your heart health. This screening includes detailed diagnostic imaging and lab work consisting of a seven point comprehensive program includes heart screenings and vascular tests. You can find more detailed information HERE. Henry Ford Health System also offers many educational classes and sessions as well that are perfect for learning more about how to lead a healthier lifestyle and how to improve your heart health.

To find more information about Henry Ford Health System, please see the links below:

Henry Ford Heart & Vascular Institute

Henry Ford Health System Women’s Heart Center

Is your heart health something that you think about often?

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Henry Ford Health System.

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