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Heart Health Center

12 Tips for Better Heart Health

Diet, sleep, fitness, and more -- how to strengthen and protect your heart right now
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Consider swapping your BlackBerry for another handheld gadget -- your iPod. “Put some relaxing music on your iPod, close your office door for 10 minutes, and listen and breathe.”

5. Get heart healthy social support.

You know exercise improves heart health by keeping weight down and raising levels of HDL cholesterol, but doing it with a friend adds benefits.

“Finding an exercise buddy is really important because social support lowers your risk of heart disease and helps you stay motivated,” Mosca says. Build up to 60 minutes of exercise a day, but even 20 minutes is better than nothing.

In fact, being married and having a strong social network may help protect against heart disease, according to a study of nearly 15,000 men and women. It turns out that people who have a spouse, go to church, join social clubs, and have a lot of friends and relatives have significantly lower blood pressure and other heart disease risk factors than loners.

6. Volunteer to fight heart disease.

People who volunteer tend to live longer than people who don’t. It’s that simple, Mosca says. “We think this is because volunteering reduces isolation and increases social connectivity.” Find a charity that means something to you and donate your time now.

7. Take a heart-felt approach to quitting smoking.

Smoking is a major risk factor for heart disease, but kicking this nasty habit can be much easier said than done. “If you smoke, talk to your doctor about some of the new therapies that are available,” Goldberg says.

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.

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