Stop smoking. Smoking temporarily constricts blood vessels, forcing your heart to work harder. It also raises your LDL (“bad”) cholesterol levels and lowers your HDL (“good”) cholesterol levels. Besides, it stinks!
Eat a low-saturated-fat, high-fiber diet. Center meals around fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Favor monounsaturated fats like olive and canola oils, eat more fish and less meat and be sure to use nonfat dairy products.
Spend at least 30 minutes a day being active. Make it 60 to 90 minutes if you need to lose weight. Start by thinking with your feet instead of your head. For example, whenever possible, walk rather than drive; take the stairs instead of the elevator; and walk to a coworker’s desk rather than call on the phone. Then go one step further: Set aside time for a brisk stroll, jump rope, play basketball, swim or cycle.
Control your blood pressure and keep cholesterol levels in check. If you have high blood pressure and/or high cholesterol, take an active part in bringing levels into the normal range. Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions, including taking medication as prescribed.
Control your weight. Reaching and maintaining a desirable weight will ease the burden on your heart and improve blood cholesterol and blood sugar levels. What’s more, losing just 10 pounds if you’re overweight can help lower high blood pressure.
Limit alcohol consumption to one drink a day. One drink a day appears to have a heart-healthy benefit, but more than that raises blood pressure and cancer risk.
Brighten your attitude. Mounting evidence points to stress as a precipitating factor in heart disease. So cut yourself some slack, practice being optimistic, hug a loved one and devote some time to activities that make you feel good.
Heed warning signs. Women are more likely than men to experience angina, chest pain that occurs when the heart doesn’t receive enough blood. If you suspect you have angina, which can precipitate heart disease, bring it to the attention of your healthcare provider.
Ask your healthcare provider about taking an aspirin a day. It prevents blood from clotting, the primary cause of heart attacks. But aspirin therapy may not be right for everyone.