6. Have more fruit and less fruit juice.
Your heart works best when it runs on clean fuel. That means lots of whole, plant-based foods (like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds) and fewer refined or processed foods (like white bread, pasta, crackers, and cookies).
It’s time-tested wisdom. "The latest fads get overplayed by the media, but the core of what makes a heart-healthy eating pattern hasn't changed for decades," Lloyd-Jones says.
One of the fastest ways to clean up your diet is to cut out sugary beverages like soda and fruit juice, which lacks the fiber that’s in actual fruit.
"We drink way too many of our calories," Sanghavi says. "And those calories don't fill us up the way real food does, so we have them in addition to everything else we're eating, with no nutritional benefit."
7. Crunch the numbers.
Not sure if you need to slim down? The easiest way to find out is to calculate your body mass index (BMI), a number based on your weight in relation to your height. You're considered overweight if you have a BMI of 25 or higher, which also means you're more likely to get heart disease. A BMI of 30 or higher puts you in the even higher-risk “obese” category.
You can lose weight by taking in fewer calories each day than you burn off, which usually means a combination of eating less food (or healthier foods) and getting more exercise.
Structured diets or calorie-counting programs and smartphone apps can help, "but there is no one best plan that will work for everyone," Lloyd-Jones says. "Find the one that works with your life and that you're able to sustain long-term."
8. Ditch the cigarettes, real and electronic.
Smoking and secondhand smoke are bad for your heart. If you smoke, quit, and avoid spending time around others who smoke as well.
E-cigarettes, which have become a popular alternative to tobacco products, have both a good and a bad side, Lloyd-Jones says. "They don't contain the harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke, and they can help some people wean themselves off of smoking," he says. "But they still do contain nicotine, so your goal should be to quit completely, not just switch to a less toxic version."