Did you know that heart disease is the top cause of death in the U.S., accounting for more than 800,000 deaths just three years ago? What’s more, more than 120 million American adults have some form of cardiovascular disease, which includes coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular (brain) disease, arterial disease (arms and legs), and others. That’s nearly 1/2 of the people in the entire country!

People at higher risk of developing heart disease are those who are:

  • Overweight or obese
  • Diabetic
  • Lack physical activity
  • Have poor diets
  • Drink alcohol excessively.

Clearly, heart disease in the U.S. has reached epidemic portions. But it’s not just in the U.S. According to the World Health Organization, nearly 18 million people worldwide died in 2016 due to cardiovascular disease.

With heart disease so widely spread, the World Heart Federation is holding its 19th annual World Heart Health Day on September 29, 2019. The goal is to raise awareness of the epidemic the world faces and to educated people on how to better care for their heart.

To that end, here are three crucial things you can do in order to have a healthier heart, and ideally avoid being one of the millions of people suffering from these severe diseases.

Quit Smoking. NOW!

It’s no secret (anymore) that smoking is terrible for you. In terms of heart disease, though, it’s one of the main behaviors that you can change to reduce your risk. Smoking can raise your blood pressure significantly, which puts you at risk of heart attack or stroke. Smoking also damages the lining of your arteries, which in turn can lead to the build up of fatty materials and narrow the arteries. What’s more, the carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke makes your heart work harder to oxygenate your blood. Lastly, smoking can also cause severe blood clots, which can also be extremely deadly (not to mention painful).

Eat Healthier

It’s funny, but a healthy diet can reduce your risk of heart disease in a wide variety of ways. Eating healthier can lead to lowering cholesterol, losing weight, and reducing blood pressure, among other things. All of these are contributing factors to developing heart disease. So, what’s a healthy diet? That often depends on each person individually, but typically in means eating balanced meals, low-fat foods, plenty of vegetables and fruits, and lots of whole grains. It also means avoiding fried and/or sugary foods. Of course, it’s always best to have a personalized diet developed by a nutritionist.

Improve Your Sleep

We live in a world where getting enough sleep is tough. Between all the demands on our time, the effects of electronics, and other common causes, most Americans don’t sleep enough. Sleep is an important time for the body to repair itself, and not getting enough sleep often increases the risk of having high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes. To get a better night of sleep, start going to bed earlier and avoid electronics at least an hour before bed.

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