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Did you know heart disease is the leading cause of death in both men and women? Nearly, 1 in every 5 people dies from heart disease each year. The good news is that there are choices you can make in your daily life to significantly reduce your risk factors for developing heart disease or having a heart attack or stroke. 

It’s time to get heart smart. Take some time to love your heart this February during American Heart Month by following any of our 10 healthy heart tips — and your heart will surely love you back.

“There is a lot that patients can do to decrease their risk of heart disease. Healthy lifestyle choices including regular exercise, a healthy diet, not smoking, managing any risk factors such as hypertension or diabetes and annual checkups are the best ways to prevent heart disease,” says Robert Altman, MD, a cardiologist at Summit Health. “Our primary care physicians and cardiologists work together as partners in your care to help your heart stay healthy for a lifetime.”

Read to learn more about our best healthy heart tips. Follow them all, or even a few, and be on your way to a longer, healthier life today.  

1. Eat right. Does your plate look like a rainbow? 

Filling your plate with well-balanced foods that include fruits, vegetables, grains, and low-fat proteins and dairy will fuel your body with the resources you need to stay heart healthy. Limit refined sugar and processed or high-fat foods. 

2. Get moving. Are you getting enough exercise? 

Your heart needs to work out the same way your muscles do. The Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate activity like brisk walking per week and at least two days a week of muscle-strengthening activities. 

3. Lower cholesterol. When was your last test?

All it takes is a simple blood cholesterol test. If your cholesterol is above 200 mg/dl you are at risk for heart disease. You can lower your numbers by making dietary changes, paying attention to food labels, and reducing saturated fats. There are also medications that can help when diet alone is not enough. 

4. Manage blood pressure. Do you know your numbers? 

Keeping this number in check is another key to a healthy heart. A blood pressure reading of 120/80 mmHg, or more is elevated. You can maintain a healthy blood pressure by getting regular exercise, eating healthy foods that are low in salt and fat, staying at a healthy weight, and quitting smoking. When lifestyle changes are not enough, your physician can recommend medication to keep your blood pressure in a healthy range. 

5. Sleep well. How much shuteye do you get? 

Getting a good night’s sleep is important to overall health and keeps your heart and blood vessels healthy. The CDC recommends adults get seven or more hours per night of sleep. Some tips that can improve your slumber include biofeedback, breathing exercises, meditation, and yoga. 

6. Reduce stress. Do you feel anxious a lot?

Stress can impact your mind, body, and heart. Some ways to reduce stress include deep breathing, taking breaks from electronics, exercising, spending time with animals, engaging in mindfulness activities, and practicing gratitude. Even a few minutes a day of Zen a day goes a long way for your heart health. 

7. Schedule a checkup. When was the last time you saw the doctor?

Regular yearly appointments with your primary care physician can help identify problems before they start. Your doctor can perform a baseline heart health exam to identify your risk factors and come up with a plan to lower your chances of developing heart disease with lifestyle changes and medication when necessary.

8. Quit smoking. Do you use cigarettes or tobacco? 

Smokers are more likely to experience heart disease than non-smokers. After only 12 hours of being smoke-free, the carbon monoxide level in your blood drops to normal and allows more oxygen to reach vital organs like your heart. 

9. Watch your weight. Do you need to lose a few pounds? 

Carrying around extra pounds puts stress on your heart. The muscle needs to work harder to pump the blood to your organs and body. Maintaining a healthy body mass index (BMI) reduces the risk factors associated with heart disease. A BMI between 18.5 and 24.9 falls within the healthy weight range for men and women. If you need to shed a few pounds, try these meaningful steps to healthy weight loss. 

10. Drink water, not alcohol. Are you having enough glasses every day?

When it comes to health and alcohol, less is more. Keep alcohol use to a minimum and drink more water instead.

Summit Health Can Help

Remember, every individual is different when it comes to heart health. Stay on top of your heart health by scheduling regular visits with your primary care physician. If you have risk factors for heart disease, they may refer you to a cardiologist who can develop an individualized plan that works best for you.  

About Our Cardiac Imaging Service

Summit Health’s radiology department offers state-of the-art diagnostic services that can help diagnose heart conditions in the earliest possible stages and identify the best treatment plans for cardiac disease.

Our cardiologists and radiologists are experts at interpreting cardiovascular MRIs, which provide detailed images and information about the heart and its surrounding structures. We also offer Coronary Calcium Scoring with CT scan that can more accurately measure the amount of calcium in the arteries. Exams are available at multiple locations. Please call 908-277-8673 to schedule your exam or speak to your provider regarding which exam is right for you.