How to Get a Healthy Heart

Four Parts:Achieving and Maintaining a Healthy WeightHaving a Healthy DietHaving a Healthy LifestyleGetting Tested

Having a healthy heart is crucial to your overall health and wellbeing. Having a healthy and active lifestyle can greatly reduce your chances of suffering from heart problems. Maintain a healthy weight, eat right, and watch your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol to promote heart health.

Part 1
Achieving and Maintaining a Healthy Weight

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    Assess your weight. Being overweight or obese can have a significant impact on the health of your heart. The more overweight you are the more likely you are to suffer from heart disease. To have a healthy heart you need to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. The first step is to assess whether or not you are overweight and then determine how much weight you should lose.
    • You can use an online BMI calculator to determine if you are overweight
    • You will need to input your height and weight.
    • For some BMI calculators you may also need to measure just above your waist and around your neck.
    • A BMI under 18.5 is considered underweight, between 18.5 and 29.4 is normal, between 25 and 29.9 is overweight, and 30 or higher is considered obese.[1]
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    Consume less calories than you use. Despite all the various diets and weight-loss techniques out there, the basics are quite simple. You need to use more calories than you consume in order to lose weight. Sticking to a healthy diet and being active will help you to lose weight and lower your chances of heart disease.
    • As a general rule, you should aim to cut 500 calories from your daily intake to lose a pound a week.
    • It's not completely straightforward, however, as you will be losing water and lean tissue as well as fat, so pay attention to your body.[2]
    • Remember that once you lose weight you will have to maintain a balance in your diet and exercise so you do not consume excess calories and regain the weight.
    • To maintain your weight, daily calories burned will have to be approximately the same and calories consumed.
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    Set goals. You might begin fired up and ready to exercise and make changes, but after a time that enthusiasm may wane, and it may become difficult to stay motivated. Setting specific goals makes it more likely you will stick with your plan to lose weight and be heart-healthy. For this to work, your goals need to be more concrete than just "Get healthy" or "Have a healthy heart." Try setting a goal that is specific, timely, and achievable. Your goal might be "I want to lose 5 lbs. by the end of October," or "I want to be able to run a nine-minute mile by June."
    • Write down your goals, and be sure to make smaller goals along the way (such as "Lose two pounds in September") and revisit them to stay motivated.
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    Get active. Exercising regularly is important for anyone trying to lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. Being active also has great benefits for your heart health, as those who are generally inactive are more likely to develop heart problems. Being inactive can increase your chances of suffering from high blood pressure and diabetes, which are major factors in heart disease.
    • Aim to incorporate 30 minutes of moderate to intense activity at least five days a week.
    • Once you have managed this, try to up it to 30 minutes every day.[3]
    • Examples of moderate-intense activity include walking fast, cycling, swimming, and playing basketball.[4]

Part 2
Having a Healthy Diet

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    Eat enough fruits and vegetables. Having plenty of fruits and vegetables in your diet is an important part of eating healthily and looking after your heart. They are rich in vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre, while being low in calories. Substituting fruit and vegetables for high-fat foods and snacks can make a big difference if you are trying to achieve and maintain a healthy weight.
    • Choose fresh or frozen vegetables, rather than canned vegetables. The canned ones tend be have added salt. If you do get canned veg, make sure it is marked as low-sodium or low-salt.
    • Try to limit the amount of fried or breaded vegetables you eat.
    • Choose fresh fruit rather than frozen fruit with added sugar, or canned fruit that comes in a heavy syrup.[5]
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    Cut down on saturated fats. If you consume a lot of saturated fats, you can raise the level of cholesterol in your blood, which can lead to heart disease. Avoid eating too many foods that are high in saturated fats to help keep your heart healthy and reduce the chances of you suffering from heart disease.
    • Make changes to your diet by choosing leaner cuts of meat, and 1% fat milk.[6]
    • The average person consuming around 2,000 calories a day should not have more than 20g of saturated fat each day.[7]
    • Check food labels for information on the amount of saturated fat you are consuming.
    • If you have high blood pressure or heart disease the amount of saturated fat you consume will be different. Consult your doctor for advice.[8]
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    Lower your salt intake. One of the ways you can help to prevent and control high blood pressure is by lowering the amount of salt and sodium you consume. You should aim to consume no more than around a teaspoon of salt throughout the day (about 2,300mg of sodium). It is even better if you can get yourself down to two-thirds of teaspoon of salt (1,500mg of sodium). There are a number of ways you can take steps to lower your salt consumption,
    • Use products that have no-added salt, or are reduced-sodium.
    • Flavour your food with herbs and spices rather than salt.
    • Eat fresh meat and poultry, rather than canned or prepared meat which will generally have high a salt content.
    • If you do eat canned fish or vegetables, rinse it under the tap before you eat it.
    • Get into the habit of reading the nutritional information on food packaging, and choosing food that has lower amounts of salt or sodium.[9]
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    Eat more fibre. Eating plenty of fibre will improve your diet and can help lower your risk of heart disease. You should aim to consume at least 30g of fibre a day. You can get fibre from a variety of sources, including wholemeal bread, oats, bran, wholegrain cereals, and fruit and vegetables.
    • Try to incorporate lots of fibre into your regular diet by making some alterations to your shopping and eating habits.
    • For example, regularly having a bowl of a bran cereal for breakfast will help you get enough fibre.
    • Swap white bread for wholegrain bread to up your fibre intake.[10]

Part 3
Having a Healthy Lifestyle

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    Quit smoking. If you smoke, the absolute best thing you can do for your heart is to quit. Smoking can lead to serious heart problems, and it is one of the main causes of coronary heart disease. The impact of quitting is significant. A year after you have stopped, the danger of you suffering a heart attack will drop to about half that of somebody who still smokes.[11]
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    Reduce your alcohol intake. If you drink alcohol, drinking in moderation should not cause problems for your heart health. In fact, people who drink only in moderation may be less likely to have a heart attack than people who drink nothing at all. Drinking a lot, however, will increase your risk of heart problems including raised blood pressure and a heightened risk of suffering a stroke.
    • Moderate drinking is defined by the US Government as no more than one drink a day for women, and two for men.
    • One drink is equivalent to 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, or 1 ½ ounces of liquor.
    • Remember that alcohol contributes to wide range of health problems, including increased risk of stroke, raised blood pressure and triglyceride

levels, damage to the heart muscle, and addiction.[12]

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    Get enough sleep. A good night’s sleep can be beneficial for your heart, so try to get into good sleeping habits. Research has shown that people who slept for 7 hours a night had less calcium in their arteries than those who slept for 5 hours. Calcium in the arteries is an early sign of heart disease.[13]
    • Getting enough sleep will also help to avoid stress and give you the energy to live and full and active lifestyle.
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    Cope with stress. Stress has been linked to heart disease, and an emotionally upsetting event is often cited as a trigger for a heart attack. The direct links between stress and heart health are uncertain, but often the ways people cope with stress can be damaging for their heart. For example, drinking alcohol, overeating and smoking are all common ways to respond to a stressful situation which harm you heart.
    • Try to manage stress and choose alternative ways to relax that are more healthy, like progressive muscle relaxation or deep breathing exercises.
    • Exercise is a great stress-buster, so next time you are stressed out go for a walk, jog or bike ride.
    • Learning to meditate, or practicing yoga are also great ways to manage stress and look after your heart.[14]

Part 4
Getting Tested

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    Check your blood pressure. Blood pressure is a key indicator of your heart’s health. You should get your blood pressure checked whenever you have a check-up with your doctor, especially if you think you have a heightened risk of heart problems.
    • Many different factors influence your blood pressure, such as weight, diet, stress, alcohol consumption, and smoking.
    • There are often no symptoms of high blood pressure, so it’s important that you get it checked regularly.[15]
    • Blood pressure is typically recorded with two numbers, systolic and diastolic. The systolic number is recorded when the heart beats, and the diastolic number is the pressure between beats.
    • A normal blood pressure reading would have a systolic value of less than 120, and a diastolic value of less than 80.
    • Anything above this indicates prehypertension, or high blood pressure and you should seek medical attention.[16]
    • Losing weight, quitting smoking, and/or decreasing alcohol consumption may help improve your blood pressure.
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    Test your blood sugar. Controlling your blood sugar is an important part of lowering your risk of heart disease and diabetes. If you’re 45 or older you should get your blood sugar tested every three years. If you are overweight you should get tested more frequently. If you have a family history of diabetes, your risk may be increased.
    • If you are at risk of diabetes it’s important that you act quickly and talk to your doctor so you can devise a treatment plan.
    • This may involve changes to your diet and lifestyle to help you lose weight and reduce the chances of heart problems and developing type 2 diabetes.[17]
    • Normal blood sugar levels are 100 mg/dL after not eating for eight hours, and less than 140 mg/dL 2 hours after eating.[18]
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    Check your cholesterol. You need some cholesterol, but too much can increase your risk of heart disease. It is recommend that everyone over the age of 20 get their cholesterol levels checked every four to six years. This should be a feature of your overall cardiovascular health programme, and is a good way to monitor your general health.
    • The test is a simple blood test, which often follows a nine to 12 hour fast.
    • Genetic factors can increase your risk of high cholesterol, but you can reduce this risk with a healthy and active lifestyle.[19]
    • A test of your cholesterol will give you a total blood cholesterol level, as well as high-density lipoprotein (HDL) value and a low-density lipoprotein (LDL) value. You should looks at all of these figures with your doctor.
    • Your total blood cholesterol should be below 200 mg/dL. 240 is high-risk, and between 200 and 240 is borderline.
    • An HDL level that is less than 40 mg/dL is considered high-risk. Exercise can help raise your HDL levels.
    • An LDL level that is 190 mg/dL or above is classed as high-risk.[20]


  • If you're concerned about your heart in any way, consult a doctor.
  • Consult a doctor before starting an exercise program, especially if you are middle aged or older, or have any reason to be concerned about your health.

Sources and Citations

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Categories: Cardiovascular Health and Blood Pressure