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    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.

    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.

    4) Blood Sugar

    Overweight and too little exercise -- that's what greatly increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. It's nothing to take lightly because it can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and even blindness.

    A fasting blood sugar test -- after not eating or drinking anything but water for at least 12 hours -- is most commonly used to diagnose type 2 diabetes.

    "The bottom line is, take it seriously," Michael Crouch, MD, a family and community medicine specialist at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, tells WebMD.

    5) Exercise

    Yes, you've heard it all before. But we're not talking about an unreasonable commitment here.

    The American College of Sports Medicine recommends aerobic exercising three to five days a week for 30 to 45 minutes. This doesn't mean strapping on the leotards and joining others in the gym. Exercise that strengthens the heart comes in all shapes and sizes -- biking, swimming, and jogging, to name a few.

    "Walking is perfectly fine," says Crouch. "Anything is better than nothing, but 30 minutes a day is what we recommend."

    With reporting by Jeanie Davis.

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