Heart failure is often caused by an unhealthy lifestyle. The prescription for preventing heart failure includes improving your overall health and quality of life. Although some risk factors cannot be changed, like your age, family history or sex, making the following changes can significantly lower your risk of developing heart failure and other types of cardiovascular disease.
1. Don't Use Tobacco
One of the greatest risk factors for heart failure is smoking. The chemicals in tobacco are harmful to your blood vessels and heart and cause the arteries to narrow. Your heart also has to work harder when it is exposed to the nicotine in cigarette smoke. Some of the oxygen in your blood is replaced with carbon monoxide from smoke, and the heart responds by beating harder and faster, increasing blood pressure and narrowing the blood vessels.
No amount of smoking is safe, and even smokeless tobacco and low-nicotine or low-tar cigarettes are risky.
The good news is that quitting smoking cuts your risk of developing heart failure and other types of cardiovascular disease dramatically after just one year. You will actually start reaping the rewards of quitting as soon as you stop, no matter how much or how long you smoked.
2. Get at Least 30 Minutes of Exercise Most Days
Getting regular exercise can significantly slash your risk of developing fatal heart disease. Heart failure is often caused by diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol and high blood pressure, but working out regularly can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight and avoid these conditions. Exercise also reduces stress, another factor in heart failure.
Aim to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity at least four days per week. Strenuous exercise is great, but you can also get many benefits by doing regular activities like housekeeping, gardening, walking the dog or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
3. Eat a Healthy Diet
Lower your risk of heart failure by eating foods that are low in salt, cholesterol and fat. Avoid sources of saturated fat, like coconut and palm oils, red meat and dairy products, and limit your consumption of trans-fat filled foods, like margarines, deep-fried fast foods, packaged snack foods and bakery products. Instead, eat a well-balanced mix of vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products and whole grains.
Omega-3 fatty acids can reduce your risk of heart failure. Good natural sources of the nutrient include fish, like mackerel and salmon, and certain oils, including walnut, flaxseed, canola and soybean oil.
4. Maintain a Healthy Weight
When most people gain weight, they put on fat instead of muscle. This gain can cause conditions that boost your risk of developing heart disease, including diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Reducing your weight by as little as 10 percent can lower your risk of developing these conditions.
5. Get Regular Health Screenings
Most people with the aforementioned risk factors for heart failure do not know they have them until they take a test. Regular screenings for blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol levels can tell you whether you need to take action to prevent heart failure.