Keep your ticker happy with these tips to prevent heart disease.
Taking care of your heart is an investment that will pay off for the rest of your life—and it’s never too early to start. Here are seven ways to keep your ticker happy, so you can be heart healthy for life.
1. Slash your salt and sugar intake. “The two biggest things that I say to all my patients is to cut the sugar and cut the salt,” says Satjit Bhusri, MD, a cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Sodium causes your body to retain water, which can raise your blood pressure, a risk factor for heart disease. (This doesn’t mean you’re destined for bland food: Here’s how to add flavor without salt.) Sugar is also bad for your heart because it promotes metabolic syndrome, says Paul Knoepflmacher, MD, a clinical instructor in medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City. Metabolic syndrome is cluster of metabolic disorders, including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol. (Avoid these sneaky sugar sources in your diet.)
2. Pump up your produce. Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables—about eight servings a day, per the American Heart Association—can do wonders for your weight and overall health, and reduce your risk of heart disease. Your doctor may recommend the heart-healthy DASH eating plan, which has been proven to lower blood pressure and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels. Here are expert tricks to incorporate more fruits and veggies into your diet.)
3. Lose weight. A healthy weight is key for a healthy heart. “Your heart is a machine, and it pumps blood to your whole body continuously—60 to 80 beats per minute. If you have more fat or more weight added to that, that’s extra stress that the heart has to push against,” says Dr. Bhusri. Knowing your body mass index (BMI)—a measurement that takes your weight and height to determine your total body fat—can help you and your doctor assess your risk. A healthy BMI is considered between 19 and 25.
4. Cut back on saturated fat. “Saturated fat does increase LDL cholesterol,” says Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, a nutritionist and cookbook author in New York City. High-fat dairy, fatty cuts of meat, and coconut oil are all sources of saturated fat. Do your heart a favor: Switch to fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and stick to leaner meats (like chicken, turkey, or lean cuts of red meat).
5. Make exercise a habit. Research has shown that 30 to 40 minute jaunts of regular moderate-to-vigorous exercise (like brisk walking, hiking, or jogging) three to four times per week can help lower your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, and help you maintain a healthy weight. If that seems like a lot, start slow. Even 10 minutes of physical activity a day offers heart-healthy benefits. Something is always better than nothing.
6. Soothe your stress. “If you have two patients with intermediate heart disease and one has a high stress job, that can actually count as an additional risk factor for heart disease,” says Dr. Bhusri. Stress can zap your energy, make you irritable, and temporarily cause your heart rate and blood pressure to rise. What’s more, people tend to respond to stress by medicating with unhealthy behaviors, like eating junk foods, drinking, or smoking.
For one way to help combat stress, make sure you’re getting enough sleep—for most people, that’s 7 to 9 hours, according to the National Sleep Foundation—each night. Just one night of bad sleep can make you irritable and stressed the next day. What’s more, research has shown that most Americans would be happier and healthier if they were to get just an extra 60 to 90 minutes of snoozing per night. (Learn about other ways your body suffers when you skimp on sleep.)
7. Stop smoking. This one is obvious, but if you smoke, quit. (If you don’t smoke, don’t start.) The chemicals in tobacco smoke can harm your blood cells and damage the function of your heart, which increases your risk of heart disease and heart attack. Learn more here about how smoking affects your heart.
Being heart healthy is a permanent lifestyle adjustment—it’s OK to take small steps (better than no steps!). Make these switches at your own pace and gradually change your habits one by one. These small steps you take now will reap big rewards: better quality of life, longer life, and a healthier, happier you.
Dr. Knoepflmacher is a clinical instructor of medicine at The Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where he also maintains a private practice.Frances Largeman-Roth
Frances Largeman-Roth is a nutritionist and cookbook author in New York City.Antonella Apicella
Antonella Apicella is a registered dietitian at the Lenox Hill Hospital Outpatient Nutrition Program.Joan Pagano
Joan Pagano is an exercise physiologist in New York City.Satjit Bhusri
Dr. Bhusri is an attending cardiologist at the Lenox Hill Heart & Vascular Institute and an assistant professor of cardiology at Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine.
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Even if you have, quote, bad genes for,
let's say, heart disease or
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high cholesterol, what you do and
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how you live can have a huge impact
on your outcome and on your health.
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When you have too
much sodium in the body,
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it pulls more water
into the blood vessels.
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That strains the blood vessels over time.
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Think about a hose that's
getting too full with water.
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this puts a strain on the heart over time.
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It's coming from processed foods,
packaged food, and restaurant food.
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If you're focusing on fresh foods,
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you're gonna go a long way
towards cutting out sodium.
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We wanna be getting more fruits and
vegetables, which are really rich in
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potassium, and potassium helps
to balance out sodium levels.
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Being overweight, or obese,
puts a strain on your heart.
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It leads to increased risk of diabetes,
increased risk of high blood pressure.
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Both of which are major factors and
risks for heart disease.
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it can affect your cholesterol negatively.
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So all these things together related
to body weight can have a huge impact
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on your cardiovascular risk.
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It's important to limit saturated fat.
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The American Heart Association recommends
no more than 5% of calories be coming from
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saturated fat, because saturated fat does
lead to plaques, which clog our arteries.
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So we find saturated fat
in a lot of different foods.
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Dairy is one of those.
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So consuming the lower fat dairy, or the
nonfat dairy, would be the better option,
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and even just different cuts of meat.
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So a leaner cut of meat will have
a lower saturated fat content
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compared to something
that's highly marbleized.
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Physical activity improves the ability
of the heart and lungs to function.
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So when you're elevating your heart rate,
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when you start to breathe a little bit
heavier, you are circulating blood,
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that improves the function of your
heart and lungs to process oxygen.
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The minimum amount of exercise, to make
a difference in someone's heart health,
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is 30 minutes of moderate intensity
cardio activity most days of the week.
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Since the heart attack,
I have been more conscious about my diet,
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more conscious about exercising.
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I still have guilty pleasures,
but I try to minimize them.
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I try to workout more afterwards.
00:02:16,390 --> 00:02:19,780
So if you have two patients with
intermediate heart disease, and
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one has a high stress job,
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that can actually count as an additional
risk factor for heart disease.
00:02:27,430 --> 00:02:30,980
So as we know, smoking is
probably the single most important
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reversible risk factor of all, in terms of
cardiovascular health, in terms of cancer.
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One important thing that I tell
people about stopping smoking is
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that the health benefits of stopping
smoking commence immediately.
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It begins as soon as you
stop that last cigarette.
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That you can definitely lead a long,
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healthy life even if there's
heart disease in your family.
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If you're a smoker, you can quit smoking.
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If you're inactive, you can get active.
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If you have a terrible diet,
you can start tomorrow with healthy diet.
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So there's so
much that we can do to change our risk.
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About Metabolic Syndrome. New York, NY: American Heart Association. (Accessed on January 9, 2018 at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MetabolicSyndrome/About-Metabolic-Syndrome_UCM_301920_Article.jsp#.WjQRSlQ-eL4)
Heart-Healthy Lifestyle Changes. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. (Accessed on February 10, 2021 at https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/heart-healthy-lifestyle-changes/aiming-for-a-healthy-weight)
Alcohol and Heart Health. New York, NY: American Heart Association. (Accessed on January 9, 2018 at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/Alcohol-and-Heart-Health_UCM_305173_Article.jsp#.WjQd-FQ-eL4)
Stress and Heart Health. New York, NY: American Heart Association. (Accessed on February 10, 2021 at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/StressManagement/HowDoesStressAffectYou/Stress-and-Heart-Health_UCM_437370_Article.jsp#.WirNiLQ-eL4)
About Fruits and Veggies. New York, NY: American Heart Association. (Accessed on January 9, 2018 at http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/Nutrition/About-Fruits-and-Vegetables_UCM_302057_Article.jsp#.WlO22VQ-c5g)
More Sleep Would Make Most Americans Happier, Healthier and Safer. American Psychological Association. (Accessed on February 10, 2021 at http://www.apa.org/research/action/sleep-deprivation.aspx)