The leading cause of death in men is heart disease. More than that, 50% of men aged 20 years and older are diagnosed with hypertension and/or take antihypertensive medication. For those reasons, and many more, a heart healthy diet can be lifesaving – literally.

You might be wondering, “What is considered an unhealthy blood pressure”? According to the American Heart Association, there are five blood pressure categories, ranging from normal to hypertensive crisis. When looking at your blood pressure reading, if your systolic (upper number) is less than 120 and your diastolic (lower number) is less than 80, you are considered in the normal category. Stages of hypertension, or high blood pressure, begin when your blood pressure ranges between 130-139 systolic and 80-89 diastolic. Keep in mind that anything higher than 180/120 is considered a hypertensive crisis and should be addressed by a physician immediately. There are certain signs that indicate you have a critically low blood pressure and those can be found here.

Aside from medical intervention to control your blood pressure and help maintain overall heart health, there are natural ways and lifestyle changes that can help you lower your likelihood of needing medical intervention long term or developing issues with your health later in life. Here are the 5 things we believe you can do to improve and/or maintain your heart health:

1. Eat a heart healthy diet. There are lots of ways to shift into a lifestyle of healthy eating, but there are changes that can improve your heart health, specifically. One very prominent style of eating that has a positive impact on your heart (and gut) health is plant-based eating. This evidence-based approach focuses on consuming mostly or only fruits, vegetables, nuts, beans, whole grains, and meat substitutes. By doing this, you cut your odds of high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. One very well-known gut health expert that follows the plant-based approach is Dr. Will Bulsiewicz. His methods and suggestions are research-based and easy to digest – no pun intended.

What are other examples of “heart healthy” eating?

  • Limiting your intake of saturated fats, cholesterol, salt, and sugar
  • Eating fresh fruits and vegetables instead of canned, frozen, or fried
  • Controlling portion sizes, focusing on more low-calorie, nutrient-rich foods and less high-calorie, high-sodium foods

2. Visit the doctor regularly. When you make it a priority to schedule appointments with your doctor, they can monitor things like your blood pressure, body weight, and the impact of stress on your body through various tools and screenings. Not only that, but they can provide recommendations on how to manage issues that may turn up in the findings from those screenings. Additionally, if you are aware of family history that indicates you have a strong link to heart disease, you can discuss options with your doctor on how to navigate that in your own day-to-day decisions.

3. Maintain a healthy body weight. You may be wondering, “What is considered a healthy body weight”?Well, according to the Mayo Clinic,“being overweight increases your risk of heart disease. A body mass index (BMI) of less than 25 and a waist circumference of 35 inches (88.9 centimeters) or less is the goal for preventing and treating heart disease. Of course, it is important to remember that your body composition is extremely important when assessing whether your body weight is considered “healthy”. A trained healthcare provider should assess your health and body weight by performing the appropriate health assessments.

4. Limit tobacco use. Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease. It primarily leads to the buildup of fatty plaques in your arteries called atherosclerosis. This is because nicotine tightens your blood vessels and carbon monoxide can damage their inner lining, making them more susceptible to that buildup. If it is difficult for you to kick the habit cold turkey, try to minimize how often you indulge in tobacco slowly over time or find alternatives with limited or no tobacco or nicotine. Keep in mind, though, that these alternatives are still not as safe as quitting all together but could help you kick the habit.


5. Recognize and manage stress. According to WebMD, “men are more prone to some forms of stress and anger” that can ultimately lead to high blood pressure and stress hormones. Those can restrict blood flow to the heart, raising men’s risk for heart disease. There are lots of ways to implement stress-relief activities into your daily life without sacrificing lots of time and energy. Here is a great article we wrote in collaboration with our counselors at Genesis Medical Associates that provides examples on ways to manage stress: Relieve Stress and Live a Better Life

When it comes to men and the possibility of developing heart problems, there are some things that are unavoidable like family history, environmental and genetic factors. Luckily, though, there are many things you can implement that could have a huge impact on delaying the onset of (or avoiding) things like heart disease and high blood pressure. For more detailed suggestions that correlate with your individual circumstances and health history, contact your primary care physician. Our team of providers at Heyl Family Practice are seasoned in dealing with patients that battle high blood pressure and heart disease. If you’re looking for a team that can work collectively with you to manage your heart health, contact us for a new patient appointment.


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