6. Clean up.
Your heart works best when it runs on clean fuel. That means lots of whole, plant-based foods (like fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds) and fewer refined or processed foods (like white bread, pasta, crackers, and cookies).
It’s time-tested wisdom. "The latest fads get overplayed by the media. But the core of what makes a heart-healthy eating pattern hasn't changed for decades," Lloyd-Jones says.
One of the fastest ways to clean up your diet is to cut out sugary beverages like soda and fruit juice, which lacks the fiber that’s in actual fruit.
"We drink way too many of our calories," Sanghavi says. "And those calories don't fill us up the way real food does, so we have them in addition to everything else we're eating, with no nutritional benefit."
7. Think beyond the scale.
Ask your doctor if your weight is OK. If you have some pounds to lose, it’s not just about calories and exercise.
Sure, you’ll probably want to change your eating habits and be more active. But there’s more to it than that.
For many people, “emotional eating” is where they find comfort and stress relief, and how they celebrate. So if it’s hard to change those patterns, it can help to talk with a counselor to find other ways to handle those situations.
8. Ditch the cigarettes, real and electronic.
Smoking and secondhand smoke are bad for your heart. If you smoke, quit, and don't spend time around others who smoke as well.
E-cigarettes are popular, but they’re not completely problem-free. "They don't contain the harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke, and they can help some people wean themselves off of smoking," Lloyd-Jones says. "But they still do contain nicotine, so your goal should be to quit completely, not just switch to a less toxic version."
9. Do more of what you love.
"I tell my patients that managing stress in a healthy way, whether it's meditation, yoga, or exercise, is really important," Sanghavi says.
Make it a point, too, to spend time with people you’re close to. Talk, laugh, confide, and enjoy each other. It’s good for your emotional health and your heart.