# February, 11, 2020

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, responsible for a stunning 25 percent of all deaths. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that heart disease kills 647,000 people each year, or one person every 37 seconds. In this post, we share three healthy lifestyle changes to help prevent heart disease. And, if you’ve already been diagnosed, these lifestyle changes can help improve your condition.

Please note that the following is general advice; it does not take the place of your doctor’s instructions. Always follow your physician’s recommendations regarding your health.

What Is Heart Disease?

Also known as cardiovascular disease, the term heart disease refers to a wide variety of heart conditions. In America, the most common type of cardiovascular disease is coronary artery disease (CAD). Other heart conditions include:

  • Angina, which is a symptom of coronary artery disease marked by chest pain. It is due to the reduced blood flow caused by CAD.
  • Atherosclerosis occurs when plaque builds up in the arteries due to high cholesterol. Over time, this buildup causes those arteries to narrow, restricting blood flow.
  • Cardiomyopathy is an enlarged or stiff heart muscle, which causes the heart to pump weakly or not enough.
  • Peripheral arterial disease is a narrowing of the arteries that send blood to the limbs (arms and legs). Also known as PAD, it is a common result of atherosclerosis.

There are many more types of heart disease. The CDC provides a full list of conditions, as well as warning signs and symptoms.

Now, let’s look at three lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of heart disease.

1. Quit Smoking for a Healthy Heart

To most people, the main danger of smoking is lung disease. And, while that is a serious risk, smoking damages your cardiovascular system in two major ways.

  • Reduced oxygen levels in your blood due to inhaling carbon monoxide
  • Constricted arteries due to nicotine ingestion

Those constricted arteries make it harder for blood to flow in and out of your heart. That means your heart is working harder, but it still doesn’t get the amount of oxygen it needs.

Healthy lifestyle changes quit smoking

How Quitting Smoking Helps Your Heart

The heart benefits of putting out those smokes begin almost immediately. Within an hour, your blood pressure lowers and within 12 hours, your body expels that excess carbon monoxide. Thanks to lower blood pressure and improved oxygen levels, your risk of heart attack decreases in just 24 hours.

At the one-month level, your lung function improves. You should start to see reduced coughing and increased endurance when performing cardio exercises.

Circulation continues improving through those first three months. At the end of the first year, your risk of heart disease is cut in half. That risk continues dropping for as long as you remain smoke-free.

How Medicare Helps You Quit Smoking

Medicare Part B covers a variety of preventive services, including tobacco use cessation counseling. Your out-of-pocket cost is zero assuming your provider accepts assignment. When you’re ready to quit smoking, talk to your primary care provider.

2. Follow a Heart-Healthy Diet

The food that’s considered “healthy” seems to change fairly often. In reality, though, the basic advice never changes.

A healthy diet starts with eating real food, meaning food that isn’t heavily processed. Half of your plate should be covered with fruits and vegetables, with the other half split between lean proteins and complex carbohydrates. Look for healthy fats, like avocados, nuts, and seeds. Avoid saturated fats, trans fats, sugars, and salt. Limit processed foods as much as possible.

If your doctor already has you on a diet, continue following his or her advice.

Healthy lifestyle changes diet

How a Healthy Diet Helps Your Heart

Following a healthy diet makes it easier to maintain a healthy weight. Diets that are high in salt, cholesterol, and trans and saturated fats increase risk for high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and more.

How Medicare Helps You Follow a Healthy Diet

Medicare Part B’s preventive services include your Yearly Wellness Visit. This is the perfect time to talk to your healthcare provider about what a healthy diet means. All Medicare beneficiaries qualify for this service once per year.

3. Exercise Your Way to Heart Health

Staying physically active lowers your risk for just about every health issue out there, including heart disease. The recommended level of exercise for cardiovascular health is 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic exercise. This could be walking, jogging, swimming, biking, or anything that gets your heart pumping but still allows you to hold a conversation. Other aerobic options include:

  • Hiking
  • Dancing
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Tai chi

The standard recommendation is breaking that 150 minutes per week into five, 30-minute sessions. If time or fitness levels are an issue, you can break that 30 minutes into two or three sessions per day.

Please note that doctors recommend 30 minutes per day of exercise on top of 60 minutes of general daily activity, such as gardening, housework, and landscaping.

Again, talk to your doctor before beginning any new exercise program.

Healthy lifestyle changes exercise

How Exercise Helps Your Heart

Your heart is a muscle. Aerobic exercise helps strengthen it. Cardio workouts are also good for circulation, so blood moves more efficiently throughout your body. This lowers your risk of stroke, atherosclerosis, peripheral arterial disease, diabetes, and more.

How Medicare Helps You Exercise

Again, Medicare Part B covers a Yearly Wellness Exam at no cost to you. This is the perfect opportunity to talk to your doctor about exercise programs you can safely perform.

There are also many Medicare Advantage plans that cover health and fitness programs. These vary widely according to plan and location, so check with your provider to learn whether your plan offers this benefit.

Our Find a Plan tool lets you compare your Medicare options quickly and easily. Just enter your location and start date to start comparing your options.


Donna Frederick

After retiring from a career as an executive travel counselor in 2006, Donna Frederick embarked on a second career as a licensed insurance agent. During that first year, many clients told Donna how overwhelmed they felt by Medicare, but that her assistance helped them finally understand the Medicare program. That experience inspired Donna to focus her efforts on educating her clients to ensure they fully understand their Medicare options. Today, Donna takes pride in providing outstanding customer service and going the extra mile to make sure each client knows all of their options and has a sound understanding of their Medicare plan, from costs to coverage and all points in between.

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Last Updated 12/21/2018