A heart-healthy lifestyle is important for everyone, not just people who have existing health problems. Healthy habits can help keep your heart and blood vessels in good shape. If you already have heart or blood vessel problems, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, a healthy lifestyle can help lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke. Healthy habits do something else too—they are a good example for your children, spouse and family. For your health and theirs, follow these heart-healthy tips.
1. Eat an apple
Eating a nutritious diet is one of the best things you can do to prevent and control many health problems, including heart and blood vessel disease. Transitioning to healthy eating starts with learning new ways to eat, such as adding more fresh fruits, vegetables and whole grains, and cutting back on foods that have high levels of fat, salt and sugar. Healthy eating is not a “diet.” It means making changes you can live with and enjoy for the rest of your life.
2. Take your tests
Seeing your doctor regularly and getting screenings is important. The sooner your doctor diagnoses a disease, the more likely it can be cured or managed. To reduce your risk of heart and blood vessel problems, be sure to keep an eye on your cholesterol and blood pressure. The tests you might have to check your risk for heart and blood vessel problems depend on your age, health, gender and risk factors. Talk to your doctor to find out which tests are right for you.
3. Go for a walk
Improving your fitness is good for your heart and blood vessels, as well as the rest of your body. Being active helps lower your risk of health problems. And it helps you feel good. Aerobic activity raises your heart rate and keeps it up for a while. This increases the amount of oxygen delivered to your heart and muscles. Over time, this kind of activity benefits your heart, your muscles, your mood and self-esteem, and your energy level. It can lower your blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, body fat, fatigue, anxiety and depression.
4. Stay at a healthy weight
Staying at a healthy weight is also part of a heart-healthy lifestyle. A healthy weight is a weight that lowers your risk for health problems. For most people, body mass index (BMI) and waist size are good ways to tell if they are at a healthy weight. But reaching a healthy weight isn’t just about reaching a certain number on the scale or a certain BMI. Having healthy eating and exercise habits is very important. If you want to get to a healthy weight and stay there, healthy lifestyle changes will work better than dieting. Reaching a certain number on the scale is not as important as having a healthy lifestyle.
5. Put down that cigarette
Everyone who uses tobacco would benefit from quitting. When you quit smoking—no matter how old you are—you decrease your risk of heart attack, stroke and many other health problems. Quitting smoking is hard. Some people who have quit say that it was the hardest thing they have ever done. But most smokers eventually are able to quit smoking. And you don’t have to do it alone. Ask your family, friends and doctor to help you. Get help to quit for good.