Inflammation and Heart Health: Reducing Risk Factors Through Lifestyle Changes

Inflammation Heart

and Health

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., with cardiovascular disease killing more than 840,000 people each year. Unhealthy lifestyle factors such as smoking, physical inactivity, and high blood pressure are the major controllable risk factors for developing cardiovascular disease.

However, the role of inflammation in heart health has been gaining increased attention in recent years. Inflammation is the body’s defense against infection, stress, and other external physical and psychological stimuli. Chronic, low-grade inflammation has been linked to major risk factors for heart disease such as obesity, diabetes, and high cholesterol.

What Causes Inflammation?

Chronic inflammation can be caused by an unhealthy diet, lack of physical activity, and stress. Eating a diet high in saturated fats, trans fats, and sugar leads to an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines — molecules involved in an immune response — that can cause the body to enter into an inflammatory state. Regular physical activity helps reduce inflammation because it increases the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines.

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Stress is another major contributor to chronic inflammation. When people experience a long period of stress, inflammatory markers may be increased due to a phenomenon called oxidative stress. This is caused by an increased production of free radicals—unstable molecules that can damage cells throughout the body.

How Can I Reduce Inflammation?

The best way to reduce inflammation is to adopt a healthy lifestyle, incorporating good nutrition, regular physical activity, and stress management strategies.

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Nutrition: Foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are generally anti-inflammatory. Avoiding processed and refined foods, limiting your intake of saturated and trans fats, and avoiding processed meats, such as hot dogs and lunch meats, can help reduce inflammation.

Exercise: Regular physical activity can help reduce inflammation by increasing the production of anti-inflammatory cytokines. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five days a week.

Stress Management: Learn to manage stress through relaxation techniques such as yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises.

How Can I Reduce My Risk of Heart Disease?

Controllable risk factors for developing heart disease include smoking, physical inactivity, and high blood pressure — all of which can be managed through lifestyle changes.

Quit Smoking: Quitting smoking is one of the most important lifestyle changes you can make to reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

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Stay Active: Regular physical activity can lower your cholesterol, reduce your risk of diabetes, and improve your overall heart health. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity up to five days a week.

Manage Your Blood Pressure: High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease. Managing your blood pressure can be as simple as eating a nutritious diet, limiting sodium intake, and adding more physical activity to your daily routine.

Reducing inflammation and managing your risk factors for heart disease starts with making lifestyle changes. Eating a nutritious diet and getting regular physical activity are the two main components of reducing inflammation and improve your heart health. Take the steps to improve your health today!