5. Limit alcohol.
For some people, consuming alcohol can increase their risk for heart disease. Because alcohol raises the level of triglycerides in your blood and/or blood pressure, excessive drinking can poison your heart muscle and cause abnormal heart rhythms or even heart failure. Continuous excessive drinking and binging can ultimately lead to a stroke.
6. Maintain a healthy body weight.
People who are overweight are at a disproportionately higher risk to die from heart disease, strokes, digestive diseases, cancer and diabetes. According to one source, "Four out of five people who are diagnosed with this disorder are more than 15 percent over their desirable body weight. Some scientists predict that if people didn't become overweight in middle age, the number of new diabetes cases would be cut in half!" (Living Well, Staying Well, 83). Furthermore, obesity can:
- Raise your blood cholesterol
- Raise your blood pressure
- Lower your protective, good cholesterol-High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL) and raise your harmful cholesterol-Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL)
- Raise you triglyceride level
- Predispose you to adult-onset diabetes
A good way to measure if you're at a healthy weight is by using the Body Mass Index (BMI), a measurement that correlates your amount of body fat to an overall health standard. The formula is: weight (lb) / [height (in)]^2 x 703.
Underweight = Below 18.5
Normal = 18.5 – 24.9
Overweight = 25.0 – 29.9
Obese = 30.0 or higher
Source: American Heart Association and American Cancer Society. Living Well, Staying Well: Big Health Rewards from Small Lifestyle Changes. Times Books, Random House, 1996. Print.
* Disclaimer: The information presented in this piece is in no way intended as a substitute for medical counseling or physician's advice.
Liz is a Seattle University senior majoring in Sports and Exercise. She is interested in nutrition, strength and conditioning and cardiac health. "She says, "I believe that a healthy lifestyle is the best medicine for a healthy body!" Liz has interned at RHF since January 2014.