10 things you can do for your heart
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States, and it’s the second-leading cause of death in Kentucky. Here are 10 things you can do to keep your heart healthy.
1. Know your numbers: Your blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol and body weight reveal a lot about how likely you are to develop heart problems. This guide shows the basics of what your numbers mean. Here are two ways to get them:
- Your doctor can record them at your next checkup.
- Watch for free health screenings (pharmacies – including those at department stores and grocery stores – as well as hospitals sometimes offer these; googling “free health screening” followed by your city is a good place to start).
2. Learn your family history: If a close relative has had heart trouble, you are more likely to have it. Find out whether your brothers, sisters, parents or grandparents have had heart disease and how old they were when they developed it, and share that information with your doctor.
3. Exercise: A good goal to start with is 30 minutes a day, five days a week, of moderate intensity aerobic exercise such as brisk walking, ballroom dancing, bicycling, doubles tennis or water aerobics. You can get more benefits if you add muscle-strengthening activity twice a week through weightlifting or calisthenics (pushups, pullups and situps, for example).
4. Eat well: A diet low in saturated fats (from animal products – meat and dairy) and trans fats (found in fried foods and baked goods) helps reduce the risk of high LDL blood cholesterol. The DASH diet is easy to follow and good for you.
5. Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke: Check out these 11 strategies.
6. Get enough sleep: Those who don’t sleep enough are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease. How much sleep do you need? This is a good place to find answers.
7. Reduce stress: Slowing down, staying organized, exercising and sleeping well can all help. Dr. John A. Patterson recommends mindful breathing.
8. Control high blood pressure: Two new treatments as well as adopting healthy habits can help lower blood pressure.
9. Reduce belly fat: Abdominal fat has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease (it’s not just how much weight you’re carrying but where you carry it, studies have concluded).
10. Take it easy on the alcohol: An average of one to two drinks per day for men and one per day for women is fine, but more than that can lead to higher fat levels in the blood as well as obesity. Binge drinking can damage the heart muscle.