4 Easy Ways To Reduce Your Risk Of Atherosclerosis
Your good health has an enemy — atherosclerosis. Even with a name you may not recognize, atherosclerosis is very common and its effects can be very serious. Oftentimes, symptoms may not be recognized until the condition becomes severe, causing problems throughout the body, even stroke or a heart attack. The good news is that you can take steps to protect yourself from this disease.
What is atherosclerosis?
The inside walls of healthy arteries are smooth and clean. This makes it easy to transport the blood your body needs. But arteries can become clogged when fatty substances like cholesterol stick to arteries. These deposits are called plaque.
When plaque begins to build up, it can eventually slow or block the flow of blood. This blockage is atherosclerosis. It can affect any medium- to large-sized artery in your body. When atherosclerosis affects the arteries that supply blood to the heart, it’s called coronary artery disease.
Are you at risk?
While there are some risk factors you can’t control, like your family history, other risk factors can be reduced. Keep in mind; it is never too late to incorporate healthy behaviors as these not only help reduce your risk of atherosclerosis, they can also improve the condition and your overall health. If you have one or more of these, you are at a greater risk for atherosclerosis:
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- A family history of atherosclerosis or heart disease
- An inactive lifestyle
- Overweight or obesity
What can you do?
Make changes to your diet. It may seem obvious, but a diet high in saturated fat and cholesterol can raise your cholesterol levels. To avoid eating excess cholesterol, cut back on the amount of meat, eggs, milk and other dairy products in your diet. And be careful with processed foods like frozen dinners as they can be high in fat, sugar, salt and cholesterol.
Focus on eating foods that are high in omega-3 fatty acids. These fats, found in fish, play a role in helping keep triglycerides down. Salmon, albacore tuna, sardines, and herring all have a lot of omega-3s. Also, aim to get 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day. Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, such as whole-wheat bread and brown rice, are great sources.
Exercise regularly. Regular aerobic exercise can help fight atherosclerosis by reducing the amount of fat in your blood, lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol and controlling your weight.
It's never too late to start exercising. Brisk walking, swimming, and bicycling are good choices. Whatever activity you choose, make sure it gets your heart beating faster. Aim for an average of 40 minutes of moderate to high intensity exercise at least 3 to 4 days a week. You don’t need to join a gym or buy expensive equipment, taking a brisk walk every day can work just as well.
Get regular checkups. Have your doctor check your blood pressure and cholesterol regularly, no matter what age you are. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommends that all adults older than 20 have their cholesterol level checked every 5 years.
Getting your cholesterol checked is simple enough; you will have the blood test done after fasting for 9 to 12 hours. The test should include total cholesterol, LDL (bad) cholesterol, HDL (good) cholesterol and triglycerides. Make sure to talk with your doctor about what your target cholesterol levels should be.
Make heart health a priority. Heart health is crucial for overall health. And one of the best ways to support your heart is to prevent conditions like atherosclerosis. It doesn’t stop there, though, as heart health is multifaceted. By working with a specialist, you can navigate through the complexities of heart health and learn specifically about your heart health risks.