Lifestyle Changes to Combat Heart Disease

photograph of couple exercising
The most important steps to reducing your risk for heart disease don’t take place in a hospital. They take place at home by developing and committing to a heart healthy lifestyle with a good diet and routine exercise while maintaining a healthy weight.

“I would encourage everyone to take time and pay attention to their lifestyle,” said CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs cardiologist Dr. Srinivas Vengala. “It can be very simple things like taking 20 minutes to walk or exercise and watching what we eat. Those steps will add up for heart health.”

While it’s a common misconception that the need to combat heart disease doesn’t begin until an older age, it’s never too early to implement healthy lifestyle changes. Healthy eating can still deliver irresistible tastes, while exercise can be exciting and fun with team sports, swimming or hiking.

photograph of couple hiking

“The earlier that you can intervene and modify your risks for heart disease, the better,” said CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs cardiologist Dr. Jason Pelton. “Heart disease doesn’t start in your 50s, 60s, 70s. It starts in the third decade of your life and even people in their 20s.”

Healthy lifestyle changes can go a long way toward preventing common risk factors for heart disease such as diabetes, hypertension and obesity. Without a commitment to a heart healthy diet and regular exercise, the number of risk factors will continue to grow, increasing the likelihood of coronary artery disease, heart attack or heart failure.

“We sometimes see decades worth of exposure to hypertension or diabetes with our patient population,” said Dr. Pelton. “All of those things can be modified. Sometimes it’s easier said than done, but we have a lot of resources in our system at CHI St. Vincent.”

Along with a good diet and regular physical activity, stopping the use of tobacco is one of the most effective lifestyle changes to improve heart health and reduce the risk of developing a number of different heart conditions. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, smoking is the single most preventable cause of early death in the United States and tops the list as a primary risk factor for heart disease.

“Sometimes our time is limited just based on the number of patients we see, but I always make a point to encourage patients to stop smoking if they smoke,” Dr. Pelton said. “It’s all about education and talking to the patient. You don’t want to neglect your health at all, especially when it comes to your heart.”

Dr. Vengala, Dr. Pelton and the rest of the team of leading cardiologists at the CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs Heart Center perform life-saving diagnostic procedures, provide one-on-one treatment and work to help patients manage heart disease every day. To learn more about lifestyle changes to combat heart disease and our wide range of heart services available across the state, visit: