Looking for tried-and-true tips to keep your heart healthy? Here’s a countdown of 10 actions to take, starting today.
|1. Stop smoking. Smokers are more apt to have a buildup of fat in the arteries (atherosclerosis) and lower HDL (the “good” cholesterol that rids arteries of the “bad” fat). Smoking also increases blood pressure and the risk of blood clots.|
|2. Limit alcohol and caffeine. Some research suggests a drink or two every day raises HDL (good cholesterol), but the jury's still out. If you feel dizzy or have heart palpitations after drinking a few cups of coffee, consider cutting back.|
|3. Take care of your teeth. Did you know there is a strong link between periodontal disease and heart disease? Brush and floss daily to keep your gums and teeth – and heart – healthy.|
|4. Reduce stress. Take a deep breath! Stressful situations could increase your risk of having heart disease. A 2006 study at Yale University found layoffs doubled the risk of heart attacks in some age groups. (Other studies had similar findings.)|
|5. Stay within a healthy weight range. Being overweight is hard on your heart. If your BMI (Body Mass Index) shows you’re overweight or obese, talk to your doctor about losing weight. You can calculate your own BMI using the calculator found here. Losing even five or 10 pounds can help.|
|6. Exercise regularly. Regular aerobic exercise builds a healthy heart and lungs. There are other great reasons to get your heart pumping: it can lower your LDL (bad cholesterol), blood pressure, risk of obesity, type 2 diabetes and improve your overall health.|
|7. Eat right. Begin by eating lots of fruits and vegetables. Include fish in your diet (good source of omega-3 fatty acids). Choose monounsaturated fats and avoid trans fats. Limit your sugar and salt intake. Drink lots of water.|
|8. Visit your doctor. Get that annual physical! Have your doctor check your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels.|
|9. Make sleep a priority. Not getting enough sleep might be linked to increased levels of cortisol, a hormone that increases the risk of stroke or heart attack. Lack of sleep also takes a toll on your immune system.|
|10. Know your family history. If a first-degree relative (such as a parent or sibling) had heart disease at an early age, your risk may be increased tenfold. But don’t despair; the other nine steps can help you overcome bad genes.|
Knowing what you need to do to keep your heart healthy is a good start. Starting today, begin taking these important steps toward heart health.