12 Tips for Better Heart Health
Diet, sleep, fitness, and more -- how to strengthen and protect your heart right now
Need an added incentive? Take this advice to heart: “You start to improve
your heart health within minutes of quitting,” she says. And the heart health
dividends keep growing. “After one year, your heart disease risk is cut in half
-- and after 10 years of not smoking, your heart disease risk is the same as
for someone who has never smoked.”
Secondhand smoke counts too. A recent study found that women who are exposed
to other people’s smoke increased their risk of heart attacks by 69%, strokes
by 56%, and peripheral artery disease (PAD) by 67%, when compared with women
who did not hang out around smokers. Clogged arteries in the legs, abdomen,
pelvis, arms, and neck are linked with PAD. “Tell your friends to quit, too, or
make new friends,” Goldberg says.
8. Drink a little alcohol a day to keep heart disease away.
“For women, up to one glass of alcohol a day and, for men, up to two glasses
a day can help reduce risk of heart disease,” says Goldberg. “Alcohol may help
the heart by increasing levels of HDL cholesterol,” she explains. But keep in
mind: More is not merrier. “Alcohol also has calories, and too much can cause
high blood pressure, worsen heart failure, and cause heart rhythm
9. Strengthen your heart with weight training.
“Strength training reduces your percentage of body fat, keeps your weight
down, and increases your muscle mass and endurance for aerobic exercise,” says
Goldberg. “Do some weight training with free weights twice a week, making sure
to focus on both your upper and lower body,” she says. “As your aerobic
capacity improves through strength training, your good HDL cholesterol levels
10. Measure your waist size to gauge your heart health.
“Take a tape measure and measure your middle,” Goldberg says. “If your waist
size is more than 35 inches in women or more than 40 inches in men, this tells
you that you are at increased risk for heart disease and type 2 diabetes.”
The best way to make a dent in that spare tire? “Get serious about being
more active and get rid of simple sugar and white-floured foods in your diet,”
Goldberg says, adding that these foods tend to take up residence right around
11. Reduce your blood pressure by reducing your salt.
High blood pressure is a major risk factor for heart disease, and reducing
salt intake can help lower blood pressure. Cook with herbs in place of salt,
and make sure you read food labels to see just how much salt is in
prepared foods. “Aim for less than 2.3 grams [about a teaspoon] of salt per
day,” Goldberg says. And keep up the good work when you are dining out, she
adds. “Ask for the sauce and salad dressings on the side because restaurant
food tends to be heavily salted.”