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Heart-Healthy Diet and Exercise

Exercise for a Healthy Heart

If you have heart disease, remaining inactive is the worst thing you can do. Here's what lack of physical activity can lead to:

  • Worsening heart disease
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Increasing weight
  • Diabetes, another heart disease risk factor

Getting even as little as 30 minutes of moderate exercise on most days can have these benefits:

  • Help you lose weight
  • Reduce heart disease complications
  • Reduce your chances of stroke
  • Lower your blood pressure four to nine points
  • Reduce your risk for diabetes, another heart disease risk factor
  • Lower your chances of developing other serious medical problems

What qualifies as "moderate" activity? Take a look at these examples:

  • Brisk walking
  • Dancing
  • Light weightlifting
  • Outdoor chores such as car washing, gardening, or raking leaves
  • Indoor chores such as housecleaning

And about those 30 minutes -- you can split them up into three 10-minute periods if you need to. Your goal is to reach at least 30 minutes for the day.

Before you start, check with your doctor to see if there are activities that aren't appropriate for you. Then select activities that you enjoy and that you can work into your day. You don't have to do the same thing every day. You might find that it's easier to stay motivated if you involve friends or family members in your activities.

Stress Control for Heart Health

Does stress really affect your heart? Absolutely. Here's how:

  • Emotional stress -- especially anger -- is a common heart attack "trigger."
  • Reactions to stress can include overeating, drinking too much alcohol, or smoking, all of which are dangerous for your heart health.

Dealing with stress in healthy ways can accomplish great things for your heart:

  • Protect your heart.
  • Lower your risk of heart disease complications.
  • Help prevent heart attacks.
  • Help prevent repeated heart procedures.

Some techniques that can help you manage stress in healthy ways include these:

  • Getting regular physical activity
  • Attending stress-management programs
  • Having close relationships with people who can support you

If you think you've got a lot of stress in your life, don't ignore it. Talk with your doctor about ways to manage it -- before it makes your heart disease worse.

A Heart Healthy Diet and Alcohol Use

Is alcohol good or bad for you? That depends. Here's the bad side of alcohol use. Drinking too much alcohol can make heart disease worse. Alcohol can:

  • Raise your blood pressure
  • Increase your chances of stroke
  • Increase your risk of dying if you do have a heart attack
  • Damage your heart muscle and lead to heart failure

On the other hand, moderate use of alcohol may have these two benefits:

  • Lower your blood pressure two to four points
  • Increase the levels of HDL good cholesterol in your blood

"Moderate" alcohol means the following:

  • No more than two drinks per day for men
  • No more than one drink per day for women

This doesn't mean you should drink whatever or whenever you want. Check with your doctor for advice on the appropriate use of alcohol and your heart health. For some people, the potential problems associated with drinking may outweigh the possible advantages of moderate alcohol use.

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