man refusing burger
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Eat Fewer 'Bad' Fats

They lurk in some tempting foods, and they spell trouble for your heart. We're talking about the saturated fats in foods like burgers, butter, and cream. Also try to get rid of trans fat that often show up in pastries, french fries, and pies. They raise LDL "bad" cholesterol levels in your blood. In the long run, that may clog up your arteries and raise your chances of heart trouble.

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avocado toast
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Eat Better Fats

Not all fats are created equal. Some are good for your heart. To protect your ticker, make sure your diet includes these "unsaturated" fats. You'll find them in nuts, flaxseed, avocado, and vegetable oils. Folks who eat lots of fish like salmon, mackerel, and tuna, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids, are less likely to have heart disease. Try to add it to your menu at least twice a week.

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woman climbing tree
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Step Up Fitness

Play tennis. Ride your bike. Even walking can help. Any workout that makes your ticker beat faster will lower heart risks like high blood pressure and cholesterol. Aim for 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise every week. Short on time? Chop up it up into sessions of 10 or 15 minutes. Add muscle strengthening workouts twice a week.

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colorful produce
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Pile on Fruits and Veggies

Colorful ones have lots of minerals and nutrients that help keep your blood pressure steady and protect your heart. Get a mix of dark leafy greens like spinach and broccoli, plus red, yellow, and orange fruits and vegetables.

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sugar cubes
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Cut Back on Sugar

Get a lot of it from soda, candy, and desserts, and you may gain some extra pounds. You put a strain on your heart when you weigh too much. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar in your diet each day if you're a woman, 9 if you're a man. Read food labels carefully to keep track of how much you eat.

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woman adding salt to food
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Limit Salt

When you eat a bag of salty pretzels or chips, your body tries to balance out the extra sodium by holding on to more fluid. That boosts your blood volume, which means your heart has to pump harder to push it around your body. Over time, your ticker can get worn out and damaged, leading to heart failure. Cut back to 2,400 milligrams of salt -- less than a teaspoon -- each day.

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woman breaking cigarette
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If You Smoke, Quit

Add heart trouble to the long list of smoking's dangers. The chemicals in cigarettes lead to narrowing of your blood vessels. That makes it harder for them to carry blood to your heart and other organs. End your tobacco habit and stay away from smoky places. Secondhand smoke is also bad for your health.

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blood pressure reader
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Learn Your Numbers

High blood pressure, LDL "bad" cholesterol, and blood sugar raise your odds of having heart failure. Get these levels checked when you see your doctor so you can nip problems in the bud. If your numbers are high, you can track some of them at home with the help of a glucose monitor and blood pressure cuff.

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woman listening to music
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Beat Stress

Too much can raise your blood pressure and put a strain on your blood vessel walls. When you turn to alcohol, junk food, or cigarettes for relief, you raise your chance of having heart trouble even more. Find a healthy way to keep calm. Go for a walk. Do yoga. Meditate. Listen to relaxing music. If stress gets overwhelming, see a therapist or counselor for help.

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family talking
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Learn Your Family History

Did any of your close relatives have a heart attack? Do either of your parents have heart failure? The answers can give clues to your chance of having these health woes. Genes and lifestyle play roles in heart problems. If you learn that ticker trouble runs in your family, you can work on your diet, exercise habits, and other things that are under your control.

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doctor shaking hand of patient
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Manage Your Health

Do you have diabetes? High blood pressure? High cholesterol? All three conditions can damage your blood vessels and raise your chance of heart problems. See your doctor for regular checkups. Take medicine if you need it. And make heart-healthy lifestyle changes to manage these and other health problems.

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man doing pushup
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Stick to a Healthy Weight

Piling on the pounds -- especially around your middle -- is a recipe for trouble. People who are overweight or obese are more likely to have heart risks like high LDL cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. You can also have a problem with your heart's left pumping chamber that could lead to heart failure. Aim for a healthy body mass index (BMI) of 18.5 to 24.9 with diet and exercise.

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book and wine
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Limit Alcohol

A daily glass of red wine might be heart-healthy, but larger amounts aren't a good idea. Too much drinking can raise your blood pressure, increase levels of fats in your blood, and contribute to heart failure. With your doctor's OK, you can enjoy wine or beer -- in moderation. No more than a glass per day for women, and one to two glasses for men. But if you don't drink, don't start.

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man snoring
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Get Checked for Sleep Apnea

Does your partner complain that you snore? You could have sleep apnea, a blockage in your airway that pauses your breathing over and over during the night. It's been linked to high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart failure, and stroke. You're more likely to have this condition if you're overweight. If you snore, see your doctor for a sleep study. There's evidence that treating apnea can protect your heart.

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Sources | Medically Reviewed on 09/26/2017 Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on September 26, 2017

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SOURCES:

American Heart Association: "Know Your Fats," "Eating Fish for Heart Health," "American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults," "Obesity Information," "Added Sugars Add to Your Risk of Dying From Heart Disease," "How Much Sodium Should I Eat Per Day?" "Heart Health Screenings," "Stress and Heart Health," "Family History and Heart Disease, Stroke," "Alcohol and Heart Health," "Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease, Stroke."

Cleveland Clinic: "Your Diet and Heart Disease: Rethinking Butter, Beef and Bacon," "Overweight & Heart Disease."

Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health: "Vegetables and Fruits," "Health Risks and Disease Related to Salt and Sodium."

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: "How Does Smoking Affect the Heart and Blood Vessels?"

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation: "The Burden of Stress in America."

CDC: "Conditions that Increase Risk for Heart Disease."

National Sleep Foundation: "Sleep Apnea and Heart Disease."

Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on September 26, 2017

This tool does not provide medical advice. See additional information.

THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.

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