10 Worst Habits for Your Heart

There’s good news and bad news when it comes to your risk of developing heart disease, the leading killer in the U.S.

Let’s start with the bad. Several factors raise a person’s risk for getting heart disease — a term used to describe a range of conditions that affect the heart — including some that can’t be controlled, such as family history, and others that are more complex, such as having access to good-for-you foods and safe, affordable housing.

That said, there’s a lot you can do to help prevent heart disease and, in certain cases, reverse it. Some of these actions, however difficult to achieve, are obvious: Get active, eat better, lose weight, and stop smoking. “Lifestyle changes are difficult for everyone,” says Sabra Lewsey, M.D., a cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine. “But they are profoundly important and can make lifesaving gains in your health.”

Others are more surprising. 

Here are 10 habits to avoid if you hope to improve your heart health.

1. Being a couch potato

Not moving enough, especially on a regular basis, is risky for your health. Inactivity has been linked to cognitive decline, more frailty and even an increased risk of death. Fortunately, almost any sort of activity that raises your heart rate is a good place to start.

It’s important to move your body and elevate your heart rate for at least 150 minutes every week. You should throw in twice-weekly strength training sessions, according to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

That may seem like a lot of exercise, but it doesn’t need to be done all at once. As long as you get your heart rate up for 15 minutes or more at a time, it counts. Also, “activity” doesn’t just mean a walk or a gym class or a bike ride. It could be gardening, shopping, walking the dog or cleaning.

“You don’t have to go from doing nothing to running marathons,” says Quentin Youmans, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “In fact, the biggest leap in benefit comes from doing nothing to doing something. Just start by dedicating yourself to doing some activity every day to get your body moving.” 

To learn about 9 additional habits to avoid to help improve your heart health, from AARP, CLICK HERE.

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