Three healthy habits to fight cardiovascular disease

6 February 2024

February is American Heart Month and, perhaps more famously, home to Valentine’s Day. This makes it an ideal time for you to start loving your heart.

Time is and has been of the essence for over a century. Heart disease, particularly coronary artery disease, has been the leading cause of mortality in the U.S. since 1910. Today, almost one-third of women and about one-half of men experience cardiovascular events before the age of 65, and 6.2 million adults in the U.S. experience congestive heart failure.

Three ways to help prevent cardiovascular disease 

Now for the good news! Adopting healthier lifestyle habits, such as engaging in regular physical activity, not smoking and avoiding obesity can reduce your risk of developing heart disease by nearly 50%. 

Start today by making changes in three key preventive areas: nutrition, exercise and stress management. 

1. Prioritize fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are full of nutrients that promote heart health, such as potassium and phytochemicals (disease-fighting plant compounds). Eating five servings per day helps prevent atherosclerosis, or the hardening of arteries. 

For the most benefit, consume two servings of fruit and three servings of vegetables. Those showing the most promise for preventing atherosclerosis in recent years include tomatoes, broccoli, garlic, apples and berries.

2. Take exercise “snacks”

Studies have shown that breaking up sitting time during the workday can improve heart health. Prolonged sitting has a negative effect on several cardiovascular disease biomarkers (such as Troponin TMyoglobin and CK-MB), enzymes and hormones indicative of heart disease. 

In a study published in May of 2023, taking an exercise “snack,” or short break every 30 to 60 minutes (light-intensity walking) during an 8-hour workday offered health benefits. Researchers concluded that all exercise break categories (one- or five-minute breaks every 30 or 60 minutes) resulted in lower blood pressure readings. 

Even taking a one-minute walking break for every 60 minutes of sitting resulted in a reduction in blood pressure. So do your heart a favor and have one of the healthiest “snacks” out there.

3. Manage your stress levels

Excessive psychosocial stress increases risk of heart disease. Since 2016, mental stress has also been found to contribute to the development and progression of heart disease.

Reduce feelings of stress by making healthy lifestyle choices, such as getting adequate sleep. Experts recommend adults get seven to nine hours

Another way to manage stress is by connecting with others. In a recent study, individuals having days with more social interactions, both in-person and on the phone, enjoyed a more positive affect. Days with more frequent text messaging, however, were associated with greater stress exposure and produced a negative affect.

Crunched for time?

You can practice all preventive methods at once! Grab an apple for a snack as you walk to the other side of the office building to chat with a coworker. 

On second thought, grab two apples. Your heart will thank you.

Labcorp can help

Labcorp’s health coaching programs can assist your employees in setting up and following their nutrition, exercise and stress management goals. Our team of healthcare professionals supports participants in making positive, sustainable lifestyle changes to help them lead their best lives both inside and outside of the workplace. 

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