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Heart Health Tips From a Top Cardiologist

Cut through the heart health confusion. Get tips from a cardiologist about diet, lifestyle, and more.

Is Your Exercise Routine Really Helping You Have a Healthy Heart?

It's easy to get discouraged about exercise: It's hard to fit into a busy lifestyle. The people at the gym look like they spend hours there. You haven't run a mile since college. But no excuses -- like eating right, getting the exercise your heart needs is easier than it looks.

If you're not overweight, all you need to maintain a heart healthy lifestyle is 30 minutes of moderate physical activity five or more times a week. And you don't have to do it all at once -- 15 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening are just fine.

"Getting that amount of exercise has substantial benefits for your heart," says Mosca. Just how much is hard to quantify, but research shows that being physically inactive is a major risk factor for developing coronary artery disease.

And exercise is the gift that keeps on giving. That's because regular, moderate exercise also helps:

  • Control blood pressure
  • Prevent diabetes
  • Maintain healthy cholesterol levels

If you need to lose weight, it's going to take a little more effort. "For weight management, we want low to moderate intensity activities for 60 minutes per day," says Mosca. "The only way to really lose weight is to decrease calories in and increase calories out, and what works best is a modest approach to both. If you just reduce your caloric intake, for example, your body slows its metabolism to compensate."

Exactly what kind of exercise you do is less important than simply doing it in the first place. One way to make sure you don't skip it: Structure family time around physical activity.

For example, Mosca, her husband, and son have found a track team they can all participate in, and they often hang out at their local swim club. Your local YMCA is often a great place to start in finding opportunities for your family to get heart-healthy exercise together.

Do You Know Your Other Heart Health Risk Factors?

A heart-healthy lifestyle is about more than just diet and exercise. The single most dangerous thing you can do to your heart is to smoke. Just by itself, cigarette smoking increases your risk of heart disease, but it also worsens other factors that contribute to heart disease:

  • It increases blood pressure
  • It increases the tendency of blood to clot
  • It decreases levels of HDL -- the good cholesterol

If you smoke a pack a day, you have more than twice the risk of a heart attack than someone who doesn't smoke.

"Every cigarette you cut back matters," says Mosca. "The goal is always complete cessation, but even eliminating one cigarette a day can make a difference. Start there, and then try to keep going until you've quit altogether."

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