Ten Heart Smart Tips

0216_Heart Health_web imageHeart disease is any disorder that affects the heart. The most common form of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease, which is the narrowing or complete blockage of one or more of the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Other forms of heart disease include heart attack, high blood pressure, and stroke.

Use these ten tips to be heart smart, prevent heart disease, and help others who have heart disease.

  • Know your numbers. The following numbers can help you understand your risk for heart disease. While these numbers are good gauges, talk to your doctor about your numbers and healthy ranges for you.
    • Blood pressure: A blood pressure reading of less than 120/80 mmHg is ideal for healthy adults. If you have a health condition, talk to your doctor about your goal.
    • Total cholesterol: A total cholesterol of less than 200mg/dL in healthy adults is ideal.
    • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): An LDL cholesterol-part of your total cholesterol-of 100 or lower is ideal for healthy adults. If you have a health condition, your goal may be lower, so check with your doctor.
    • Fasting glucose: A fasting glucose of less than 100mg/dL suggests either you don't have diabetes, or if you do, it is well controlled.
    • Body mass index (BMI): Reach and maintain a healthy weight. A BMI from 18.5-25 reduces many of the risk factors of heart disease.
  • Understand the risk factors. There are some factors you can't control, such as age or family history. However, there are three key risk factors for heart disease that you can control: high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and smoking. Other risk factors within your control include uncontrolled diabetes, physical inactivity, and overweight or obesity.
  • Quit smoking. Smoking is a leading cause of heart disease and stroke. Within 20 minutes of stopping, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. Within one year your risk of heart disease is about half that of a smoker's. At 15 years, your risk of heart disease, including stroke, are reduced to that of a nonsmoker.
  • Get moving. Participate in at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five days per week. Physical activity slows the building of plaque within arteries, lowers blood pressure, increases healthy high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, and helps in weight management. There are 1,440 minutes in every day. Find 30 to take care of your heart!
  • Cut the saturated fat. Eating foods high in saturated fat drives up LDL cholesterol, a major risk factor for heart disease. Replacing foods high in saturated fat with healthier options will help lower your cholesterol levels and protect your heart. Here are some healthy swaps: replace cheese with avocado, eat sorbet or fruit rather than ice cream, choose nonfat or low-fat yogurt and milk products, spread peanut butter rather than butter on your toast, and swap out a salmon steak for your ribeye.
  • Control your blood pressure. Work with your doctor to create a plan to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level. Medication, exercise, and a healthy eating plan that is low in sodium, and rich in fruits and vegetables will all help lower blood pressure. To learn more about healthy eating, download a free copy of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH diet) from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI).  
  • Reduce your stress. Stress-and how you cope with it-can impact heart disease risk factors such as high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, overeating, inactivity, and more. According to the American Heart Association, research is promising that meditation can lower blood pressure, and one study found a 48 percent decrease in heart attack and stroke in people who practiced meditation regularly. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes of meditation most days of the week.
  • Teach kids healthy behaviors. When you make the effort to teach healthy behaviors to kids in your life, you're helping them develop habits they can practice as an adult. Set an example.
  • Build-or be a part of-a support system. Creating a supportive environment is one of the best ways to cope with a diagnosis or take charge of your health. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with heart disease, consider building a support system of friends, family, and medical practitioners.
  • Take advantage of resources. Your doctor will be able to provide information about prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of heart disease. The American Heart Association also offers a wealth of resources for healthy living, heart disease research, condition support, and more.

Sources: American Heart Association, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, WebMD, World Health Organization, and American Red Cross

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Last updated 2/2/2016