Now is the perfect time to start making heart-healthy lifestyle changes.
Find out how American Heart Association addresses heart health with the
1. Eat well
Eating foods low in fat, cholesterol and salt – and rich in fruits,
vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products, can help protect
2. Watch your weight
Excess weight can lead to conditions such as high blood pressure, high
cholesterol and diabetes that increase your chances of heart disease.
For most of us, a 10 percent reduction in weight can do the trick. But
the scale alone won’t tell you if you’re in trouble. The best
measure is your body mass index (BMI), which considers your height and
weight in determining whether you have a healthy or unhealthy percentage
of body fat. BMI numbers 25 and higher are associated with an increased
risk of heart disease and stroke.
Keep in mind that muscle weighs more than fat. So, if you are very active
and have a high BMI, another useful method is to measure your waist circumference
to determine how much abdominal fat you have.
Men are considered overweight if their waist measurement is greater than
40 inches; while women are overweight if their waist measurement is greater
than 35 inches.
3. Control your cholesterol
Cholesterol, a waxy substance in the bloodstream and in the cells of our
body, isn’t all bad. In fact, “good” cholesterol (HDL)
plays an important role in keeping you healthy by clearing “bad”
cholesterol (LDL) from your arteries, thereby decreasing your risk of
heart disease. How can you increase the good and decrease the bad? Exercise
regularly and limit saturated fat and cholesterol is a good start.
Avoid too many animal products such as red meats and full-fat dairy. Limiting
trans fats and substituting them with healthier fats such as certain vegetable
oils can also help.
While simple diet and exercise changes are enough for many people, others
may find benefit from a prescription for cholesterol-lowering medications.
4. Manage your blood pressure
One in three Americans has high blood pressure, but one out every five
doesn’t know they have it.
Known ominously as “the silent killer,” high blood pressure
has no symptoms. Diet and exercise are essential to keeping your blood
pressure low. Other important factors include staying away from cigarettes,
limiting salt and alcohol and maintaining a healthy weight.
5. Reduce your blood sugar
Diabetes can quadruple your risk of heart disease and stroke, so keeping
blood sugar levels under control is vital.
Here again, a healthy diet and active lifestyle can help keep diabetes
at bay. While medication is often needed to control diabetes, many people
find that lifestyle changes alone can lessen or even eliminate the need
Just 2 ½ hours of mild to moderate exercise each week can reduce
your risk of fatal disease by helping you to control your weight, your
blood pressure and your cholesterol, and by staving off diabetes.
Exercise also helps you look and feel great – not a bad side effect.
This doesn’t mean you have to become a marathon runner overnight.
Physical activities such as gardening, taking the stairs instead of the
elevator and walking the dog all count toward heart-healthy living.
7. Quit smoking
Tobacco use is one of the most significant risk factors for developing
heart disease. Chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels,
leading to a narrowing of the arteries that can ultimately lead to a heart attack.
Nicotine narrows your blood vessels, forcing your heart to work harder.
Meanwhile, carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces some of the oxygen
in your blood, also forcing your heart to work overtime and increasing
your blood pressure.
Even the occasional cigarette or exposure to secondhand smoke increases
But don’t think it’s too late to undo years of damage. When
you quit smoking, your risk of heart disease drops significantly within
just one year.
Hoag offers a
smoking cessation program to the community, to partner with individuals when taking this important
step. To learn more, please call 949-764-5511.
8. Speak with your physician
If you are concerned about heart disease, speak with your physician about
developing a tailored plan for a healthier heart. If you need a physician
referral, call 949-764-3627.