Avoid These 9 Heartbreakers For a Healthier Heart


Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, so it warrants a serious discussion around heart health and heart disease prevention. How healthy is your heart? These “heartbreakers” can be some of the worst heart habits, so avoid these for a healthier heart and healthier life!

1.  “Pigging out”

Being overweight is a major risk factor for heart disease. Seventy-two percent of men and 64 percent of women in the U.S. are overweight or obese.

Recommendation: Try to cut your portion size and replace sugary drinks with water. Watch out for labeled “low-fat” foods. They are often higher in calories.

2.  Assuming you’re not at risk

Risk factors include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and smoking. Cardiovascular disease (including stroke and heart attack) claims more lives in the U.S. than any other illness.

Recommendation: If you have any of  these conditions, keep them in check. Speak with your physician often and follower his/her instructions.

3.  Eating red meat

Red meat is high in saturated fats. There’s also evidence that processed meats, such as bacon and hot dogs, increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and colorectal cancer.

Recommendation: Having a steak a couple times a month is O.K. However, less than 10 percent of your diet should come from animals or animal products.

4.  Smoking or living with a smoker

Smoking wrecks havoc on your heart and the hearts of those around you. Approximately 46,000 nonsmokers, who live with smokers, die each year from heart disease due to secondhand smoke.

Recommendation:  If you are currently smoking, take measures to help yourself stop. Smoking is “the leading preventable cause for disease and death in the United States,” as stated by the Surgeon General.

5.  Stopping or skipping your medications

Medications can have unpleasant side effects. Just because you “feel fine” doesn’t mean that you no longer need to take your medications.

Recommendation: There are several options out there to treat high blood pressure. Talk with your doctor about trying a different type if one isn’t working for you.

6.  Avoiding fruits and vegetables

Research has shown that people who eat more than give servings of fruits and vegetables a day had about 20 percent lower risk of heart disease and stroke than people who ate less than three servings per day.

7.  Ignoring physical symptoms

If you suddenly notice you cannot climb those flights of stairs the way you used to be able to without experiencing discomfort in your chest, don’t assume it’s because you are out of shape! It is not uncommon for someone to sit on a heart attack for six hours.

Recommendation: Time is muscle. The earlier you can catch a problem, the better chance you have at avoiding permanent heart damage. Now is the time to call your doctor.

8.  Being a salty snacker

Salt has a direct link to high blood pressure. One out of every three Americans have high blood pressure and are therefore at a higher risk for heart attack, stroke and kidney failure.

Recommendation: Try to keep your sodium intake to 1,500-2,300 mg per day. Read labels and stick to the outer portion of the grocery store. This is where the fresh fruits, vegetables and unsalted nuts are located.

9.  Eating empty calories

Foods such as chips and french fries provide tons of calories with little, if any, nutritional value. Eating these foods can lead to obesity.

Recommendation: Ditch the junk and start eating nutritionally-balanced meals. You will find that you have more energy and feel much better.

Do you struggle with any of these “heartbreakers”? If so, what are some ways you’ve seen success in living a healthier heart-friendly life?

About the author

Jennifer Blackmon, RN
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Jennifer is the Heart Failure Coordinator for Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano, where she focuses on educating patients and staff to reduce readmissions. In her spare time, she enjoys quality time with family and friends.

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Avoid These 9 Heartbreakers For a Healthier Heart