Sometimes if a little bit is good, more is even better — especially when it comes to healthy habits and heart disease. In fact, the American Heart Association (AHA) has pinpointed seven habits that have been found to contribute to a healthy heart. Follow one or two, and you’re doing your heart some good. Do all seven, and you’re doing your heart even better.
Measures of Heart Health
The AHA has established a goal for the nation’s cardiovascular health for the next decade: “By 2020, to improve the cardiovascular health of all Americans by 20 percent while reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease and stroke by 20 percent.” How does the AHA hope to achieve this? One way is to educate people about the relationship between lifestyle habits and heart disease.
Enter the seven heart-healthy habits:
- Control cholesterol. Too much “bad” cholesterol in the blood can clog arteries, which can increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. Get your cholesterol checked. If your total cholesterol is above 200 mg/dL, follow your doctor’s advice for lowering it.
- Eat better. Vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products and fat-free or low-fat dairy products pack a powerful nutrient punch without a lot of calories. Include more of these foods and reduce your intake of salt and highly processed, high-fat foods. Find healthy recipes to improve your heart health.
- Get active. Getting moderate exercise 30 minutes a day helps reduce the risk of heart disease, because it helps lower blood pressure, increase good cholesterol, control blood sugar and control body weight.
- Lose weight. Obesity is a major risk factor for heart disease. Visit our BMI calculator to find your body mass index (BMI). If it’s 25 or higher, start losing excess pounds.
- Manage blood pressure. High blood pressure is the most significant risk factor for heart disease. Optimal blood pressure is less than 120/80.
- Reduce blood sugar. Adults with diabetes are more likely to have heart disease than those without it. Get your blood sugar level checked. If it’s above 100 mg/dL, follow your doctor’s advice.
- Stop smoking. Smoking is the most important preventable cause of premature death in the United States. Smokers have a higher risk of developing many chronic disorders, including atherosclerosis — the buildup of fatty substances in the arteries — which can lead to coronary heart disease, heart attack (myocardial infarction) and stroke. Controlling or reversing atherosclerosis is an important part of preventing future heart attack or stroke. If you're ready to quit smoking, Sharp HealthCare's Second Breath program can help.
For More Information
For more information about heart and vascular care at Sharp or to find a Sharp-affiliated doctor, search for a San Diego cardiologist or call 1-800-82-SHARP (1-800-827-4277), Monday through Friday, 8 am to 6 pm. To find general information about heart and vascular care, visit Cardiovascular Diseases in Adult Health or read the Heart and Cardiovascular News archive.