12 Tips for Better Heart Health
Diet, sleep, fitness, and more -- how to strengthen and protect your heart right now
How do you get a healthier heart, right now? The answer sounds too good to be true: “By simply leading a healthier life,” according to Nieca Goldberg, MD, medical director of New York University’s Women’s Heart Program and author of Dr. Nieca Goldberg’s Complete Guide to Women’s Health.
That’s because even small, steady changes in your life mean a stronger, more efficient heart. “More than half of heart disease is preventable, and studies have shown that 90% of heart attacks in women can be prevented,” she adds. Further, the latest study in Archives of Internal Medicine shows that women who eat loads of veggies, fruit, whole grains, fish, and legumes; drink moderate amounts of alcohol; exercise; maintain a healthy weight; and don’t smoke have a whopping 92% decreased risk of having a heart attack compared with women with less healthy diets and habits.
An added bonus? “So many things we do to help our heart, like quitting smoking, eating more fiber, and moving more, also help other parts of our body, including our bones, colon, lungs, and skin,” Goldberg says. And February is Heart Disease Awareness Month, making this the perfect time to start improving your ticker -- and the rest of you.
1. Know your heart health numbers.
Establish a baseline to help plan every preventive step for the rest of the year. “You need to know if you are at risk before you can take action to lower your risk,” says Lori Mosca, MD, PhD, director of preventive cardiology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital and author of Heart to Heart: A Personal Plan for Creating a Heart-Healthy Family. Know your HDL or “good” cholesterol, LDL or “bad” cholesterol, total cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, weight, and body mass index (BMI) numbers. And make an appointment now for a check-in next February to see if your new healthy habits are making the grade.
2. Target your triglycerides.
Shoot for a level of 150 or lower, says Peter H. Jones, MD, an associate professor of medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.