7-Step Action Plan for a Healthy Heart
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7-Step Action Plan for a Healthy Heart

Check out this simple healthy-heart plan from YOU: The Owner's Manual

When it comes to the health of your heart, what you do and what you don't do can truly make a difference. That's because lifestyle choices—like smoking, poor diet, and lack of exercise—can be far more dangerous than hereditary factors.

Here's a step-by-step plan that will help you make smart choices and help get your ticker in top form.

Action 1: Pump Your Heart
For optimal health, you'll need to do enough physical activity to burn between 3,500 and 6,500 calories a week (or roughly 500 to 950 a day). Most of that calorie loss comes from everyday tasks, but science shows that you'll also need about 60 minutes a week of stamina training—cardiovascular exercise that gets your heart rate up and makes you breathe harder. Here's what to do:

Action 2: Know Your Numbers
We're talking the big three—cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar—plus, two more you should probably know: homocysteine and C-reactive protein. Consider these numbers a stock ticker for your ticker. They tell you how you're doing, and when you need to do more. When you have them measured, make sure your doctor also tells you what your goal levels should be and what you can do to get there. Getting more active, losing weight, and making smart food choices can help get these numbers in a healthy range.

Action 3: Get Happy
There are lots of reasons to be happy, including your heart health. Negative emotions like anger and hostility can raise blood pressure. People with depression are four times more likely to have a heart attack. And while we don't understand how emotional stress causes physical stress, we do know there's a powerful connection. To get yourself in a better mind-set, adopt a more positive outlook and manage daily stressors. Here are some quick tips that can help you do that.

Action 4: Eat Your Heart Out
When making out your grocery list, follow this simple rule of thumb: opt for foods with healthful fats, fiber, and good-for-you nutrients like flavonoids, vitamins, and minerals. And nix the salty, sugary, sat-fat-laden or processed stuff. Here are six foods you should feed your heart regularly.

Action 5: Learn from Your Relatives
Even though you have a lot of control over your own heart-healthy destiny, a family history of heart disease does raise your risk significantly. So, along with talking to your doctor about a schedule of heart screenings, talk about your family health history, too. And if Mom, Dad or a sibling developed heart disease, you'll want to be extra vigilant about screenings and about adopting heart-smart habits.

Action 6: Pop Some Pills
Certain nutrients, supplements, and occasional medications can work preventive wonders for your heart. Here are the YOU Docs' top picks:

  • Aspirin: Taking aspirin regularly may reduce the incidence of heart attack by making blood platelets less sticky and decreasing arterial inflammation. But it only makes sense for men over the age of 35 and women over the age of 40. And even then, check with your doctor first, because aspirin can have side effects like stomach irritation and bleeding. Here's more on the benefits.
  • A multivitamin: Your multivitamin is chock-full of heart-healthy micronutrients, like magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D. 
  • Folate: This B vitamin lowers homocysteine to healthy levels. Since folate from food is only partially absorbed by your body, take a 400-microgram (folic acid) supplement. But make sure you're getting enough B6 and B12, too, because folate can mask a deficiency in these vitamins.

Action 7: Schedule Sleep
If you don't snooze 6 to 8 hours a night, you increase arterial aging and raise your risk of a heart attack. Inadequate sleep will also cause you to release less serotonin (the feel-good hormone) in your brain. The result: You may seek out other, less healthful ways to feel good, like noshing on sugary foods or tipping too many martinis. Try this Deep Sleep plan to get your ZZZs.

Here are more lifestyle changes that may help prevent a heart attack.

Heart Health

Heart Health

Treat your heart right by eating healthy, staying active and managing your stress. Although some heart conditions are heredity, you can reduce your risk by keeping your cholesterol and blood pressure at healthy levels, avoiding to...

bacco products and losing some pounds if you are obese or overweight. A diet high in fiber, veggies and fruits is essential for a healthy heart. Vitamins and supplements, such as fish oil, may help reduce your cholesterol, which if too high can cause blockage in your arteries and lead to a heart attack. If you arteries are blocked, you may need a stent or cardiac angioplasty device to open your blood vessels, which can help prevent a heart attack. Because heart disease is the number one killer of adults in the U.S., taking care of your heart is essential for a long life. If you have a family history of heart disease, it is especially important for you to manage your hearts health.
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