1 / 14

Eat Fewer of the 'Bad' Fats

They lurk in some tempting foods, and they spell trouble for your heart. We're talking about saturated fats that are in foods like burgers, butter, and cream. Also try to get rid of trans fat that may show up in pastries, french fries, and pies. They raise LDL "bad" cholesterol levels in your blood. In the long run, that may clog up your arteries and raise your chance of having heart trouble.

Swipe to advance
2 / 14

Eat Better Fats

Not all fats are created equal! Some are healthy for your heart. Protect your ticker by making sure your diet includes "unsaturated" fats. You'll find them in nuts, flaxseeds, avocado, and vegetable oils. Folks who eat lots of fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, are less likely to have heart disease. Try to put it on your menu at least twice a week.

Swipe to advance
3 / 14

Step Up Fitness

Play tennis. Ride your bike. Even walking can help. Any workout that makes your ticker beat faster will lower heart risks like high blood pressure and cholesterol. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week. Short on time? Chop up it up into sessions of 10 or 15 minutes. Add in muscle strengthening workouts twice a week.

Swipe to advance
4 / 14

Pile on Fruits and Veggies

Colorful ones have lots of minerals and nutrients that help keep your blood pressure steady and protect your heart. Get a mix of dark leafy greens like spinach and broccoli, plus red, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables.

Swipe to advance
5 / 14

Cut Back on Sugar

Eat a lot of the stuff in soda, candy, and desserts, and you may gain some extra pounds. You put a strain on your heart when you weigh too much. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar in your diet each day if you're a woman, 9 if you're a man. Read food labels carefully to keep track of how much you eat.

Swipe to advance
6 / 14

Limit Salt

When you eat a bag of salty pretzels or chips, your body tries to balance out the extra sodium by holding on to more fluid. That boosts your blood volume, which means your heart has to pump harder to push it around your body. Over time, your ticker can get worn out and damaged, leading to heart failure. Cut back to 2,400 milligrams of salt -- less than a teaspoon -- each day.

Swipe to advance
7 / 14

If You Smoke, Quit

Add heart trouble to the long list of smoking's dangers. The chemicals in cigarettes lead to narrowing of your blood vessels. That makes it harder for them to carry blood to your heart and other organs. End your tobacco habit and stay away from smoky places. Secondhand smoke is also bad for your health.

Swipe to advance
8 / 14

Learn Your Numbers

High blood pressure, LDL "bad" cholesterol, and blood sugar raise your risk for heart failure. Get these levels checked when you see your doctor so you can nip problems in the bud. If your numbers are high, you can track some of them at home with the help of a glucose monitor and blood pressure cuff.

Swipe to advance
9 / 14

Beat Stress

Too much can raise your blood pressure and put a strain on your blood vessel walls. When you turn to alcohol, junk food, or cigarettes for relief, you raise your chance of having heart trouble even more. Find a healthy way to keep calm. Go for a walk. Do yoga. Meditate. Listen to relaxing music. If stress gets overwhelming, see a therapist or counselor for help.

Swipe to advance
10 / 14

Learn Your Family History

Did any of your close relatives have a heart attack? Do either of your parents have heart failure? The answers can give clues to your risk. Genes and lifestyle play roles in heart problems. If you learn that ticker trouble runs in your family, you can work on your diet, exercise habits, and other things that are under your control.

Swipe to advance
11 / 14

Manage Your Health

Do you have diabetes? High blood pressure? High cholesterol? All three conditions can damage your blood vessels and increase your chance of heart problems. See your doctor for regular checkups. Take medicine if you need it. And make heart-healthy lifestyle changes to manage these and other health problems.

Swipe to advance
12 / 14

Stick to a Healthy Weight

Piling on the pounds -- especially around your middle -- is a recipe for trouble. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to have heart risks like high LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. You can also have a problem with your heart's left pumping chamber that could lead to heart failure. Aim for a healthy body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9 with diet and exercise.

Swipe to advance
13 / 14

Limit Alcohol

A daily glass of red wine might be heart-healthy, but larger amounts aren't a good idea. Too much drinking can raise your blood pressure, increase levels of fats in your blood, and contribute to heart failure. With your doctor's OK, you can enjoy wine or beer -- in moderation. No more than a glass per day for women, and one to two glasses for men. But if you don't drink, don't start.

Swipe to advance
14 / 14

Get Checked for Sleep Apnea

Does your partner complain that you snore? You could have sleep apnea, a blockage in your airway that pauses your breathing over and over during the night. It's been linked to high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure, and stroke. You're more likely to have this condition if you're overweight. If you snore, see your doctor for a sleep study. There's evidence that treating apnea can protect your heart.

Swipe to advance

Up Next

Next Slideshow Title

Sources | Medically Reviewed on 10/13/2016 Reviewed by Suzanne R. Steinbaum, MD on October 13, 2016

IMAGES PROVIDED BY:

1) Getty Images

2) Getty Images

3) Getty Images

4) Getty Images

5) Getty Images

6) Getty Images

7) Getty Images

8) Getty Images

9) Getty Images

10) Getty Images

11) Getty Images

12) Getty Images

13) Getty Images

14) Getty Images

 

SOURCES:

American Heart Association: "Know Your Fats," "Eating Fish for Heart Health," "American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults," "Obesity Information," "Added Sugars Add to Your Risk of Dying From Heart Disease," "How Much Sodium Should I Eat Per Day?" "Heart Health Screenings," "Stress and Heart Health," "Family History and Heart Disease, Stroke," "Alcohol and Heart Health," "Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease, Stroke."

Cleveland Clinic: "Your Diet and Heart Disease: Rethinking Butter, Beef and Bacon," "Overweight & Heart Disease."

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Vegetables and Fruits," "Health Risks and Disease Related to Salt and Sodium."

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "How Does Smoking Affect the Heart and Blood Vessels?"

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: "The Burden of Stress in America."

CDC: "Conditions that Increase Risk for Heart Disease."

National Sleep Foundation: "Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease."

Reviewed by Suzanne R. Steinbaum, MD on October 13, 2016

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

From WebMD

More on Heart Failure