Breaking Unhealthy Heart Habits
Today, we take a look at some of the most harmful heart habits and how simply changing a few of these destructive behaviors can dramatically decrease your risk for heart disease. Considering that we’re in the heart of Heart Month, we want to offer some positive insight into changing some negative habits. Breaking a habit is not easy; however, these behaviors, thought to be risk factors for heart disease, may literally be a matter of life and death.
Breaking Bad Heart Habits
Bad habits, whether that is biting your nails or smoking, are a fact of life. Perhaps biting your nails isn’t as detrimental as smoking, but the process of changing the bad habit applies universally.
1. Be Aware of Your Patterns – The first step to breaking an unhealthy habit is to be aware that it exists. Be mindful of what you’re doing and when you’re doing it. A habit is something that we tend to not even be cognizant of because it has become a repetitive behavior. When you’re attempting to break a bad habit, be aware of your weakness so you don’t resort to the same patterns. It is in that moment that you can begin to change a behavior.
2. Want to Change – Breaking life patterns is not easy, so you must absolutely want to make a change. The adjustment won’t happen if you allow negative thoughts to control your decisions. Make a conscious effort to break the bad habit, and then do your best to stick to that decision.
Consider affirmations to drown out the negative voices. When the alarm sounds, and it’s time for that morning spin class, and those negative voices tell you to crawl back into bed, use positive statements to get yourself moving.
3. Get Support – One of the best ways to to break a bad habit is to get emotional support. When it comes to living a healthier life and lowering your risk factors for heart disease, get your family and friends involved in the process. Let them know the struggles you’re going through so that they can offer support, motivation and praise.
4. Baby Steps – These unhealthy habits of yours don’t have to change overnight. Quitting “cold turkey,” as they say, is very challenging for most people. Be consistent and diligent, but make gradual changes and reward yourself for those baby steps.
5. Believe That You Can Change – Breaking bad habits is one of the most difficult things that you might ever have to do, but when it comes to your health there is nothing as important. If you have faced heart disease before, lived through a heart attack, or been told that you are at risk for cardiac arrest, making these changes could quite possibly save your life. Believe in yourself, believe in your strength, and understand how important these changes are to your health. Belief that you can change is a strong force in breaking unhealthy patterns.
Top 3 Habits That Will Increase Heart Disease Risks
Now that you know how to break an unhealthy habit, we’ve compiled a list of the top three most detrimental risk factors for heart disease. There are many risk factors for heart disease such as:
- High LDL, or “bad” cholesterol and low HDL, or “good” cholesterol.
- Uncontrolled hypertension (high blood pressure).
- Physical inactivity.
- Obesity (more than 20% over one’s ideal body weight).
- Uncontrolled diabetes.
- High C-reactive protein.
- Uncontrolled stress and anger.
While some of these aren’t easily controllable, the risks that can be controlled easily are smoking, weight, and apathy.
Smoking and Heart Disease
According to WebMD, about 20% of all deaths from heart disease in the U.S. are directly related to cigarette smoking. That’s a very large number, especially for a bad habit that can be broken. The nicotine in cigarettes causes decreased oxygen to the heart, increased blood pressure and heart rate, increased blood clotting, and damage to the cells that line the coronary arteries.
Weight and Heart Disease
When your weight exceeds healthy limits, cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar also begin to increase beyond healthy limits. Research published in the American Journal of Physiology in 2005, indicates fat cells may act like mini chemical factories, churning out a host of hormones and other inflammatory substances that increase our risk of heart disease.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and is a major cause of disability. In 2002, almost 700,000 people died of heart disease, just over half of which were women. These statistics mean that nearly 30% all U.S. deaths were due to heart disease. –About.com
Exercise and Heart Disease
Staying active can improve your overall well being, from developing a better diet, to gaining confidence and controlling your weight. Maintaining an apathetic and lethargic demeanor and avoiding exercise and activity lays the foundation for every other unhealthy habit in the book. Even light exercise can strengthen your heart and cardiovascular system, improve circulation and help your body use oxygen better, lower blood pressure, strengthen bones, reduce body fat, reduce stress, tension and depression, boost self-esteem, improve sleep patterns, and much more.
Breaking bad habits is one thing, changing patterns in your everyday life to save your life is quite another. Speak to your concierge physician about starting the path to a healthier lifestyle.