The best daily habit for heart health, according to cardiologists

If your doctor has told you that you need to take proactive steps to lower your blood pressure or improve your cardiovascular health, knowing where to start can feel overwhelming. It’s not easy to break habits that have been in place for years and are so automatic that you often do them without even thinking about it.

The encouraging news is that 90% of heart disease is preventable through diet and lifestyle habits. Cardiologist dr. Kaustubh Dabhadkar, MD, MPH, MBA, FACC, who specializes in preventative cardiology, says the key to making lasting changes is to make them gradually and deliberately. This, he says, will be more effective than trying to change the entire way you eat and live all at once.

According to the cardiologist Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, MD, who is also professor of nutrition at Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and professor of medicine at Tufts School of Medicine, there’s one change in particular that can make a huge difference when it comes to heart health and that’s what recommends people focus on the first: cooking more.

Related: Your Live-Well Guide to Maintaining Heart Health and Preventing Heart Disease

How cooking your own food can improve heart health

The reason Dr. Mozaffarian says cooking can have such a major impact on heart health is that it minimizes the amount of overly processed foods someone would otherwise eat. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 70 percent of the sodium Americans consume comes from overly processed foods or meals that they consume. This is crucial because a high sodium diet is directly linked to high blood pressure and poor cardiovascular health.

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