MUSC Heart & Vascular Center

Heart and Vascular Center

10 Steps to a Healthier Heart

  • Make a date and keep it. Each year on your birthday schedule a check-up with your doctor.  Have your blood pressure checked and ask your doctor to help you reach or maintain a healthy weight.
  • Tone up as you tune in. Step, march, or jog in place for at least 15 minutes a day while you’re watching television.  Increase your activity by 5 minutes each week until you’re getting at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
  • Grab some H2O when you go. Take a water bottle with you wherever you go.  You can get plenty of water and the bottle’s weight will strengthen your arms.
  • Keep out of sight, out of mouth.  Keep unhealthy food hidden away.  Put raw veggies and fruits in the Eating healthyfront of your refrigerator. Keep healthy snacks in the front of your pantry so you’ll see them first.  If you keep grabbing healthy foods at least 21 times, you’ll soon make them a habit.  Also, look for the American Heart Association’s heart-check mark on food labels.  This easy, reliable grocery shopping tool helps you identify food that can be part of a sensible eating plan.
  • Eat right to control cholesterol. Foods high in cholesterol and saturated and trans fat can lead to high cholesterol.  Help keep your cholesterol down by eating foods low in saturated and trans fat, such as lean chicken or turkey (roasted or baked, with skin removed), fruits and veggies, fat-free or low-fat dairy products, and whole grain foods. Look for American Heart Association cookbooks in your local bookstore for healthy and delicious recipes.
  • Shake the salt habit. Help lower high blood pressure by watching your sodium intake.  When you’re choosing packaged foods, look at the sodium content on the Nutrition Facts label. Use the percent Daily Value (% DV) to help limit your sodium intake. 5% DV or less is low and 20% DV or more is high. You don’t want to exceed a total of 100% DV for sodium per day. Some people (people with high blood pressure, African-American/blacks, and people who are middle-aged or older) should get even less—about half as much.
  • Kick butts. If you smoke, quit.  Try this four-step way to snuff your habit. Day one, cut the number of cigarettes you smoke by half. Day three, cut the number of cigarettes you smoke in half again. Day five, cut your smoking in half again.  On your quit day — quit!
  • Be a good loser. Excess weight increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. To achieve steady weight loss, take it easy. Eat 500 calories less each day, and exercise at least 30 minutes on 5 days a week or more and you’ll get closer to your goal.
  • Don't let a slip keep you down. If you get off your exercise schedule, have a cigarette, or mess up on a meal, just get back on track immediately with more determination to establish a healthy lifestyle.
  • Say “Yea for me!” Keep track of your achievements in exercising, losing weight, or quitting smoking. When you reach a goal, reward yourself by doing something you enjoy.

This information was kindly provided by the American Heart Association, ©2006, All Rights Reserved.


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