10 lifestyle changes to better heart health


Heart disease can be improved — or even prevented — by making certain lifestyle changes. The following changes can help anyone who wants to improve heart health:

Stop smoking. Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease, especially atherosclerosis. Quitting is the best way to reduce your risk of heart disease and its complications.

Control your blood pressure. Ask your doctor for a blood pressure measurement at least every two years. He or she may recommend more frequent measurements if your blood pressure is higher than normal or you have a history of heart disease. Optimal blood pressure is less than 120 systolic and 80 diastolic, as measured in millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

Check your cholesterol. Ask your doctor for a baseline cholesterol test when you’re in your 20s and then at least every five years. You may need to start testing earlier if high cholesterol is in your family. If your test results aren’t within desirable ranges, your doctor may recommend more frequent measurements. Most people should aim for an LDL level below 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 3.4 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). If you have other risk factors for heart disease, you should aim for an LDL below 100 mg/dL (2.6 mmol/L). If you’re at very high risk of heart disease — if you’ve already had a heart attack or have diabetes, for example — aim for an even lower LDL level — below 70 mg/dL (1.8 mmol/L).

Keep diabetes under control. If you have diabetes, tight blood sugar control can help reduce the risk of heart disease.

Move. Exercise helps you achieve and maintain a healthy weight and control diabetes, elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure — all risk factors for heart disease. If you have a heart arrhythmia or heart defect, there may be some restrictions on the activities you can do, so talk to your doctor. With your doctor’s OK, aim for 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.

Eat healthy foods. A heart-healthy diet based on fruits, vegetables and whole grains — and low in saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium and added sugar — can help you control your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol.

Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight increases your risk of heart disease. A BMI of less than 25 and a waist circumference of 35 inches (88.9 centimeters) or less is the goal for preventing and treating heart disease.

Manage stress. Reduce stress as much as possible. Practice techniques for managing stress, such as muscle relaxation and deep breathing.

Deal with depression. Being depressed can increase your risk of heart disease significantly. Talk to your doctor if you feel hopeless or uninterested in your life.

Practice good hygiene. Stay away from people with infectious diseases such as colds, get vaccinated against the flu, regularly wash your hands, and brush and floss your teeth regularly to keep yourself well.

Also, get regular medical checkups. Early detection and treatment can set the stage for a lifetime of better heart health.

COPING AND SUPPORT

You may feel frustrated, upset or overwhelmed upon learning you or your loved one has heart disease. Fortunately, there are ways to help cope with heart disease or improve your condition. These include:

Cardiac rehabilitation. For people who have cardiovascular disease that’s caused a heart attack or has required surgery to correct, cardiac rehabilitation is often recommended as a way to improve treatment and speed recovery. Cardiac rehabilitation involves levels of monitored exercise, nutritional counseling, emotional support, and support and education about lifestyle changes to reduce your risk of heart problems.

Support groups. Turning to friends and family for support is essential, but if you need more help, talk to your doctor about joining a support group. You may find that talking about your concerns with others with similar difficulties can help.

Continued medical checkups. If you have a recurring or chronic heart condition, regularly check in with your doctor to make sure you’re properly managing your heart condition.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Lifestyle

Study: Sending a thank-you note has more impact than you think
Study: Sending a thank-you note has more impact than you think

Your mother might have told you to write that thank-you note or letter of gratitude, but how many of us actually sit down to do that? Amit Kumar, assistant professor at the McCombs School of Business at University of Texas, reminds us why thank-you notes and other expressions of gratitude are a good thing. Kumar, as well as a Nicholas Epley at the...
Choose natural fixture colors to match your environment
Choose natural fixture colors to match your environment

Q: Dear Ed, my husband and I are lucky to retire in a small house in a seaside community. We plan to remodel the kitchen and wanted to ask about kitchen decorating choices to blend in with our surroundings. Can you please give us some ocean-inspired kitchen ideas? — Dottie, Rhode Island A: It’s a good practice to include a little of your...
When to do it yourself, when to hire someone
When to do it yourself, when to hire someone

Seasonal chores: DIY or outsource? How you decide what tasks to take on and what to delegate depends on several factors — cost and time involved, safety concerns and personal preference. After all, one person’s chore is another person’s relaxation. Liza Hausman, vice president of industry solutions for Houzz, said that if you&rsquo...
How to protect yourself against common home improvement scams
How to protect yourself against common home improvement scams

Home improvement, repair and renovation projects represent significant investments. And with that kind of money at stake and decisions often made under pressure, home repairs make an inviting target for scam artists who plan to take the money and run. Protect yourself from fraud by looking out for these common schemes: “Hey, I was doing a job...
A colorful story: Welcome to Leslie’s house
A colorful story: Welcome to Leslie’s house

The minute you meet Leslie, your heart is happy. She is one of those people who radiates sunshine. So when I found out Anne, one of our designers, was going to be working with Leslie to help her bring all that light and love to her interior design, I couldn’t wait to see what this talented team would come up with. Like Leslie, the story of her...
More Stories