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7 Drug-Free Ways To Treat Heart Disease

Medication isn't the only way to get your heart healthy again.

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By Taylor Lupo

Heart disease, which may clog your arteries, is the leading cause of death in American adults. If left untreated, heart disease can lead to stroke and heart failure. Treatments for heart disease are designed to manage conditions like obesity, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, and include medication, surgery and rehab. Fortunately, lifestyle changes can reduce your risk, too.

If you're at risk of heart disease, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider and follow the recommended treatment. Your provider may prescribe lifestyle changes in lieu of (or in addition to) medications.

Find out how you're sabotaging your heart health.

Eat A Healthy Diet

2 / 8 Eat A Healthy Diet

An unhealthy diet, high in fat and sodium, can put stress on your heart. Too much fat and cholesterol causes plaque buildup in the arteries, and sodium can increase blood pressure. Poor eating habits are also linked to obesity, another risk of heart disease.

A heart healthy diet, which includes lots of fruits, veggies and grains, can reduce a person’s risk of heart disease. Choose foods high in fiber and vitamins A, C and E, like whole-grain bread, brown rice and fresh vegetables. Heart healthy omega-3s, found in salmon and flaxseed, are another great addition to your diet. Cut down on red meat and processed foods, which are high in fat and cholesterol.

Stabilize Your Blood Sugar

3 / 8 Stabilize Your Blood Sugar

Diabetes, a condition that prevents the regulation of glucose in the blood, and prediabetes, a higher than normal blood sugar level, are two risks for heart disease. Managing your blood glucose levels can reduce the risks. In some cases, medication is needed to stabilize blood sugar levels, but a healthy diet and regular exercise are two great ways to reach your target glucose numbers.

Talk to your healthcare provider if you feel you’re at risk for diabetes or if your blood sugar levels could be affecting your heart.

Lose Your Vices

4 / 8 Lose Your Vices

Smoking and excess alcohol consumption are linked to heart disease, so quit smoking and limit your drinking. Studies suggest a glass or two of red wine per day may be good for your heart, but excess drinking may cause obesity and high blood pressure—conditions associated with heart disease. Excess alcohol intake may also increase risks of stroke, a consequence of heart disease.

The chemicals found in cigarettes damage the heart and blood vessels, increasing risk of atherosclerosis, or arterial plaque buildup, a cause of heart disease. It’s never too late to quit—your risk of smoking-related heart disease decreases almost as soon as you stomp out your final cigarette.

Get Your Stress In Check

5 / 8 Get Your Stress In Check

Work, relationships and financial worries can cause stress. Stressful situations are inevitable, but the way you react may be the difference between a healthy heart and heart disease. Mismanaged stress can increase high blood pressure and cholesterol.

When stress hits, take 30 minutes to workout—the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends 150 minutes of weekly aerobic exercise. Other ways to de-stress include journaling, meditation and removing yourself from the situation at hand.

Add More Movement

6 / 8 Add More Movement

Regular exercise can strengthen your heart, decrease high cholesterol and blood pressure, control blood sugar and promote weight loss—all of which help decrease risk of heart disease. If you need to lower your blood pressure or cholesterol, the American Heart Association recommends about 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity (anything that gets your body moving and burns calories) about three or four times a week. Walk, swim, jog or bike for a healthier heart. Can’t fit in 40 minutes today? Do as much as you can—something is always better than nothing.

Maintain A Healthy Weight

7 / 8 Maintain A Healthy Weight

People who are overweight or obese are at a higher risk for heart disease, stroke, diabetes and more. But, you’re not alone—nearly 70 percent of Americans are considered overweight or obese.

Everyone’s ideal weight is different, but if your body is at a healthy weight, your risk of diabetes and heart disease decrease. Regular exercise and a healthy diet go a long way to achieving and maintain a healthy weight, but be sure to consult your healthcare provider before beginning a weight loss regimen.

Head To Rehab

8 / 8 Head To Rehab

Sometimes a person with heart disease or a high-risk condition like heart failure or stable angina—chest pain under emotional or physical stress—may benefit from the help of a medical professional in a rehab program. Cardiac rehab includes heart health education, exercise training and counseling to reduce stress. The goal? If all goes according to plan, an individual will experience an improved quality of life by adopting a healthy lifestyle, recovering from heart disease-related complications, addressing risk factors and preventing future injury and illness. Ask your healthcare provider if cardiac rehab is right for you.

Take action for a healthy heart.

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