7 Ways to a Healthy Heart

American Heart Month

By India Ogazi

It’s American Heart Month, a time set aside to focus on preventing heart disease — the leading cause of death in adults. And here’s the good news: You don’t have to be a statistic. Here’s what our Director of Family Practice, Dr. Patricia Hayes, recommends for preventing heart problems.

1. Have your cholesterol checked at least once every five years. High cholesterol puts you at a higher risk for developing heart disease.

2. High blood pressure is also a risk factor for heart disease. Check your blood pressure yearly (with a physician) if you’re age 40 or older, have moderate-to-high blood pressure (130 to 139 over 85 to 89), are overweight or African-American. People age 18 to 39 who do not have these risk factors should be screened every 3-to-5 years.

3. Regular exercise, for 30 minutes a day, can reduce your risk of heart disease. Get moving.

4. Manage your diabetes by taking your medications as prescribed by your physician, and watching your diet. Having diabetes also puts you at a higher risk for developing heart problems.

5. Follow a heart-healthy diet of lean meats, fish, whole grains (whole grain breads and pasta, brown rice), nuts, fruits and vegetables. Avoid sugars, processed foods and fatty foods, such as chips and pizza.

6. Kick your smoking habit. Research shows you’re twice as likely to develop heart disease if you smoke or use tobacco products.

7. Lose weight. Being overweight increases your chances of having heart problems.

“It’s also important to know your family history,” Hayes adds. “If you’ve had people in your family who have died of a heart attack or suffered from heart problems, you’re more likely to have heart issues. So, it’s even more important for you to follow these recommendations.”