Heart disease is deadly, but heart health can be easy. An estimated 80 percent of cardiac deaths are preventable—nearly 650,000 people. A few simple lifestyle changes can set you on the road to a strong cardiovascular system. Here are some tips to keep your ticker in top form:
- Eat a heart-healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables and is low in saturated and trans fats.
- As best you can, get vitamins and minerals from foods rather than supplements.
- Avoid fad diets. Though maintaining a healthy weight is good for your heart, most complicated or gimmicky weight loss programs fall down on the "maintaining" part. A cycle of losing weight and gaining it back is worse for your heart that simply being overweight.
- Walking the dog is a great chance to get some walking in yourself.
- Chose the stairs rather than the elevator if you’re only going a floor or two—or three if you’re up for it.
- If you use mass transit, try to get off a stop or two early. If you drive, look for a parking space in the far side of the lot, or park a block or two away if you’re parking on the street
- Don’t smoke.
- Destress as best you can. Try yoga, meditation, mindfulness, or other stress-relieving techniques.
- Get enough sleep, six to eight hours every night.
Particularly if you’re overweight, you’re over 60, you have a family history of heart disease, or you have some other risk factor, talk to your doctor about including heart disease screening in your regular check-up. That means a look at your blood pressure and your cholesterol levels. This will help you and your doctor assess your risk and determine a specific strategy you can follow to lengthen your life.