Making some simple changes in what you eat, how often you exercise, how much you weigh, and how you manage stress can help to put the brakes on heart disease.
But can you actually reverse heart disease, not just slow it down?
You can undo some, but probably not all, of the damage, if you're willing to make big, lasting changes to your lifestyle.
So what makes an expanding waistline a problem for your heart?
It’s About Location
Belly fat, also called visceral fat, is closer to internal organs, says Sonya Angelone, a cardiovascular nutrition expert in San Francisco.
This type of fat can be related to hormones, like those that kick in at menopause. That's when many women start seeing their tummies thicken.
Tension Plays a Role, Too
Your body also makes a "stress hormone" called cortisol, “which increases belly fat,” Angelone says. It narrows blood vessels and raises your BP to boost blood flow. Your body needs this in times of high stress. But too much cortisol can lead to blood vessel damage and plaque buildup, so it’s hard on your heart.
It can also lead to weight gain. The process draws fat from storage and sends it to your midsection. This has an inflammatory effect that can lead to heart problems, too.
It's a good idea to keep your stress levels down. Stay calm the best way you know how, or try out calming techniques like yoga and meditation.
Make Over Your Diet
These ticker-friendly tips can also help you watch your weight:
Look out for sneaky sugar. Did you know there's some in booze, for instance? “Alcohol is sugar,” Goldberg says. Same goes for sodas and sports drinks.
Swap fruits. Go for strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries instead of high-sugar bananas and grapes. They can quell your cravings just as well.
Watch the whites. Avoid bread and white-flour foods, like white rice. Brown rice and multigrain versions are better for you, but eat them in moderation, Goldberg says.