Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

5 Steps to a Healthier Heart

Watching your weight is a good place to start for a healthier heart, but there's plenty more you can do.

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Quick! Can you name five things you can do to help your heart keep beating strong for years to come?

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer for both men and women. But research indicates that most heart attacks and other causes of heart disease death could be prevented.

Recommended Related to Heart Disease

Sam Morton: Living With Heart Disease

I've discovered that most of the time, my life with a chronic disease can be much like everyone else's. I am 41 years old. I am a father, husband, uncle, nephew, and son. I am an ex-cop. And, to either the bemusement or bewilderment of my friends and family, I am a former professional wrestler-the raucous, fake, TV kind. I am a writer and the token male member on my office's women's advancement committee. I am many things to many people. Most of all, I am a man with advanced heart disease,...

Read the Sam Morton: Living With Heart Disease article > >

1) Blood Pressure

One of the strongest predictors for heart disease is measured in two numbers -- your blood pressure. You hear the numbers, but do you know what they mean?

The first or top number is systolic blood pressure -- the pressure of blood against artery walls during a heartbeat, when the heart is pumping blood.

The second number is diastolic blood pressure -- the pressure of blood against artery walls between heartbeats, when the heart is filling with blood.

 

  • Normal blood pressure is 119/79 or below.
  • Prehypertension is 120 to 139 (systolic) and/or 80 to 89 (diastolic).

 

Do these numbers seem a bit lower than you remember? What's considered a normal blood pressure was redefined in May 2003 when guidelines were revised to include a new category -- prehypertension.

Experts recommend that people with prehypertension -- an estimated 45 million men and women -- make heart-healthy lifestyle changes to reduce their risk of blood pressure complications, such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney damage.

2) Cholesterol

Probably the most familiar heart disease risk factor, cholesterol is a type of fat that is an essential nutrient for your body. However, too much cholesterol -- or not enough of the good type of cholesterol -- floating around in your blood increases your risk for hardening of the arteries that can lead to heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

Cholesterol is considered abnormal when:

 

  • Total cholesterol is 200 or higher.
  • HDL or "good" cholesterol level is less than 40.
  • LDL or "bad" cholesterol is more than 160 (or lower if you have risk factors) -- with 190 and above being very high. However, the lower the LDL, the better. An LDL less than 100 is considered optimal; 100 to 129 is near optimal; 130 to 159 is borderline high.

 

3) Body Mass Index (BMI)

This is an indirect measure of your body fat, a quick way to see if you are overweight. BMI may be overestimated in people with a lot of muscle mass, such as body builders. It may also be underestimated in older people who have very little muscle mass.

BMI uses a person's weight and height to gauge total body fat. You can use WebMD's BMI calculator to determine your BMI.

 

  • A BMI of 18.5-24.9 is ideal.
  • A BMI of 25 to 29.9 is overweight.
  • A BMI of 30 or more indicates obesity.
  • A BMI of 40 or more indicates morbid obesity, which increases a person's risk of death from any cause by 50% to 150%, according to The Cleveland Clinic.

 

Today on WebMD

cholesterol lab test report
Article
Compressed heart
Article
 
heart rate graph
Article
Compressed heart
Article
 
empty football helmet
Article
Heart Valve
Video
 
eating blueberries
Article
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Slideshow
 
Inside A Heart Attack
SLIDESHOW
Omega 3 Sources
SLIDESHOW
 
Salt Shockers
SLIDESHOW
lowering blood pressure
SLIDESHOW