The Stitch

Five Ways to Have a Healthy Heart

For many people, the beginning of a new year can represent a fresh start on health goals. When you focus on losing weight, exercising more, eating healthy and lowering stress, all of these actions have the added bonus of improving your heart health. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is also key in lowering your risk for heart disease and heart attacks.

An illustration of an EKG readout with a cartoon heart insideAs you think about the new year and everything you are thankful for, here are five lifestyle tips your heart will thank you for, too.

  1. Stay active.

Heavy meals and stressful days may make you want to stay on the couch, but moderate exercise for 30 minutes at least three times per week can burn fat, lower cholesterol and put you on a path to improving your heart’s health.

  1. Take care of your gums.

Brushing your teeth and flossing daily can reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth and gum inflammation, which lowers your risk of periodontal disease. This decrease in bacteria in the body may also improve your overall risk of heart disease.

  1. Make sleep a priority.

While it is easy to lose track of time during the course of a busy day, maintaining an appropriate day/night cycle and getting plenty of sleep will keep you at your best physically and mentally, and also help keep stress levels lower. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adults who sleep less than seven hours each night are more likely to suffer from health problems, including heart attacks, asthma and depression.

  1. Stop smoking.

Using tobacco has negative side effects for all of your body’s systems and organs, but especially your heart. Over time, smoking tobacco damages the lining of your arteries, reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood and raises your blood pressure. In short, smoking may dramatically increase your risk of a stroke or heart attack.

  1. Avoid the wrong kinds of fats.

Maintain a well-balanced diet, including plenty of fruits and vegetables. Trans fats are a form of unsaturated fat that can raise your “bad cholesterol” (low-density lipoprotein) and increase your risk for heart disease. Remember, it isn’t about what you eat in a single meal; it’s the overall pattern of your food choices each day that counts.

Coronary and other types of heart disease can cause heart attacks but making healthy lifestyle choices can definitely reduce your risk and improve your overall health.

Additional Resources

More ways to prevent heart disease.

Learn more about the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery

Visit the Healthcare page to learn more about cardiothoracic procedures and treatments.

By Dr. Alexander Schutz, assistant professor of surgery in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Baylor College of Medicine

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