3. Slash saturated fats.
To help your heart’s arteries, cut down on saturated fats, which are mainly found in meat and full-fat dairy products. Choose leaner cuts and reduced-fat options.
Also, totally quit trans fats, which are found in some processed foods. They drive up your “bad” (LDL) cholesterol level. Check ingredient lists for anything that says “hydrogenated” or “partially hydrogenated” -- those are trans fats.
If it’s been 5 or more years since your last cholesterol blood test, you’re probably due for one.
4. Find out if you have diabetes.
Millions of people don’t know that they have this condition. That’s risky because over time, high blood sugar damages arteries and makes heart disease more likely.
Your doctor should test your blood sugar if you are 45 or older, if you are pregnant, or if you're overweight and have other risk factors for diabetes.
If you find out that you have diabetes, work with your doctor on your lifestyle (diet and exercise) and any medicine that you may need.
If you have borderline high blood sugar, also called prediabetes, take action now to turn things around.
One simple swap is to trade processed carbs (like white rice) for fiber-rich whole grains (like brown rice). Every positive change you make in what you eat and how active you are will help. Over time, you’ll be able to do more.
5. Move more.
To keep it simple, you can aim for 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week of moderate exercise. That includes any activity that gets you moving around and breaking a slight sweat.
“If you're doing nothing, do something. And if you're doing something, do more," Lloyd-Jones says.
Also, pay attention to how much time you spend seated, whether it's at work, in your car, or on your couch at home. You want to cut that time down.
"We now know that even if you exercise for 30 minutes a day, being sedentary for the other 23 1/2 hours is really bad for your heart," says Monika Sanghavi, MD, assistant professor of cardiology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Break up long periods of sitting, and stand or walk while doing things like talking on the phone or watching TV.