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How to Wreck Your Heart

What not to do for your heart's health.

5. Be a couch potato.

“Being sedentary increases heart risks. Physical activity simply translates to living longer,” Fonarow says.

Exercise helps lower blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, encourages weight loss, benefits blood vessel function, and cuts stress, among other things.

Even if you haven’t been active for the last 20 years, it’s never too late to make an impact with exercise. Just be sure to talk to a doctor before you start a new fitness regimen. Tell your doctor exactly what you plan to do, or ask his or her advice, if you're looking for suggestions.

6. Stop taking your medications.

If you stop taking your heart medications, you may be heading for a cardiac catastrophe.

“It’s only when you’re struck with a heart attack or stroke that many people think, ‘Oh, I should really keep taking my statin drug to lower my cholesterol,’” Fonarow says. He advises looking at heart medications as “insurance” against heart attack and stroke. Never stop a heart medication or adjust the dosage without first speaking with your doctor.

7. Forget your growing waistline -- just buy some bigger pants.

If your belt size is slowly getting bigger, that’s something to worry about.

Excess fat tissue in the midsection -- giving you an apple-shaped figure -- could mean metabolic syndrome.

Metabolic syndrome is a combination of risk factors that can lead to heart disease, stroke, or diabetes, through hardening of the arteries, insulin resistance, and inflammation.

A hefty waistline is linked to doubling your risk of heart disease, Goldberg says. That’s good reason to redouble your efforts to get in shape through a healthy lifestyle. It's not just about your clothes size.

8. Never mind when your heart flutters.

A fluttering feeling in your heart that causes chest discomfort, shortness of breath, the feeling you could faint, or actual fainting could be a sign of a heart arrhythmia. That’s an electrical problem with your heart, causing it to beat either too fast, too slow, or just irregularly.

If you feel a flutter for a second and it goes away, that’s no big deal, Goldberg tells WebMD. You can probably chalk that up to caffeine, chocolate, asthma, or maybe some cold medications you took. But if it happens frequently or is associated with other symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.

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