4 Lifestyle Habits That Can Lead to Heart Disease

4 Lifestyle Habits That Can Lead to Heart Disease

Heart disease is one of the most common chronic diseases in the United States, and it remains the top cause of death for both men and women. While certain risk factors — like age and family history — can’t be changed, heart disease is largely preventable.

In fact, your lifestyle is one of the biggest contributing factors to your heart health. Certain habits can lead to heart disease, and others can lower your risk and help you stay healthier throughout your life.

So, what do your habits mean for your heart health? Kunal Patel, MD, and our team at NJ Cardiovascular Institute can help you find the answer. We specialize in heart disease care in Elizabeth, Lakewood, Paramus, and Secaucus, New Jersey.

Here are four common habits that can increase your risk of heart disease, and how you can start making healthier choices today.

1. An inactive lifestyle

Regular physical activity is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy heart. But unfortunately, the rise of sedentary jobs and modern conveniences mean many people lead increasingly inactive lifestyles.

Lack of exercise contributes to weight gain, high blood pressure, and elevated cholesterol levels, all of which are risk factors for heart disease.

How to make heart-healthy changes

Strive to incorporate about 150 minutes of moderate-intensity activity into your weekly routine. You don’t have to become an athlete to see the benefits of a more active lifestyle, so try brisk walking, cycling, or any activity that gets your heart rate up.

Consider adding muscle-strengthening activities, like yoga or weightlifting, at least days a week, too. Remember to consult with your health care team before starting any new exercise routine.

2. An unhealthy diet

Keep in mind that atherosclerosis is a driving force behind heart disease. With atherosclerosis, plaque deposits made of fats, cholesterol, and minerals build up in your arteries, restricting blood flow to your heart and increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke.

A diet high in processed foods that contain unhealthy fats, sodium, and refined carbohydrates and added sugar aren’t good for your heart health and can lead to atherosclerosis. Excessive use of alcohol may also contribute to heart disease. 

How to make heart-healthy changes

Start by taking a look at the foods you eat regularly. Limit your intake of baked goods, snack chips, and other processed foods, especially processed meats. Add more heart-healthy whole foods, like fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts, and lean proteins. Limit your use of alcohol.

Over time, maintaining a balanced diet can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease.

3. Smoking and tobacco use

Smoking and tobacco use are two major risk factors for heart disease. The chemicals in tobacco damage your blood vessels, reduce oxygen levels in your blood, and raise your blood pressure. All of these factors contribute to cardiovascular problems and increase your risk of heart disease.

How to make heart-healthy changes

If you smoke or use tobacco, quit. If you don’t use tobacco, don’t start — and do your best to avoid secondhand smoke.

If you need help quitting, ask Dr. Patel and our team about smoking cessation programs. Remember, the benefits of quitting smoking are profound. Quitting can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease and other smoking-related health issues, including cancer.

4. Chronic stress

Chronic stress can take a toll on your heart, and it can even increase your risk of heart disease. When you’re under stress, your body releases hormones that temporarily raise your blood pressure and heart rate.

Over time, chronic stress can contribute to high blood pressure and inflammation, both of which increase your risk of heart disease.

How to make heart-healthy changes

Learn to recognize the stressors in your life, then start exploring healthy ways to manage them. Prioritize self-care, and consider trying exercise, deep breathing exercises, and spending time with loved ones to help reduce stress levels naturally. 

Take a proactive approach to heart health

Heart disease is often preventable and taking a proactive approach is the best way to protect your health. The good news is that you don’t have to do it alone.


Dr. Patel and our team specialize in proactive cardiology care to identify and address your unique heart disease risk factors before they lead to significant health issues.

We do a comprehensive heart health assessment, where we review your medical history, assess your lifestyle habits, and conduct tests to measure your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, and other cardiovascular markers.

Based on the results of your assessment, we create a personalized risk factor management plan to address any existing or potential issues. This plan can include lifestyle modifications, dietary changes, exercise recommendations, and medications if necessary.

We work with you to implement these changes, and you have regular follow-up visits to track your progress and make any necessary adjustments to your heart health plan. Ongoing monitoring is the best way to detect any changes or emerging risk factors early, so we can intervene in a timely manner.

As we mentioned, heart disease is often a preventable condition, and adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle is key to reducing your risk. For more personalized guidance, schedule an appointment with Dr. Patel at NJ Cardiovascular Institute today.

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