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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? continued...

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."

A big plus: It doesn't take long for your body -- and your heart in particular -- to reap the health benefits of quitting. Twenty minutes after your last cigarette, your heart rate and blood pressure drop. Two weeks to three months later, your circulation and lung function improve. Just one year after quitting, your excess risk of coronary heart disease is just half that of a smoker's.

You may have other risk factors for heart disease that are not on your radar. Mosca calls anxiety, anger, depression, and social isolation "silent epidemics" that are very prevalent, commonly missed, and potentially dangerous for your heart.

"Depression, for example, is very common, and it's very strongly linked to heart disease," she says. "If you or someone you love is depressed or harboring a lot of anger, or seems isolated, encourage them to seek help. There are many methods to help you deal with these risk factors."

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