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Week of 6.8.07

Healthy Heart Tips

Photo of apple The NOW program "Stents and Sensibility" shares a point of view that good dietary and exercise habits can be an effective treatment for many cardiac problems. But what specific habits are the right ones? Below are risk factors identified by Cardiologist Dr. Salim Yusuf, who was featured in the show, and recommendations from the American Heart Association (AHA) that focus on keeping your heart healthy.

Heart Project

Dr. Salim Yusuf led an international study of nearly 30,000 people in 52 countries that looked at the risk factors for heart disease. The study was published in 2004 and revealed that genetic factors play a much smaller role than previously thought. His study concluded that most cases of premature heart disease are preventable.

According to Dr. Yusuf, 90 percent of all heart disease worldwide, regardless of race, age, gender or resident country, can be predicted by the nine following risk factors, most of them completely controllable.

Factors that increase your risk of heart disease:

  • Smoking
  • High ratio of bad cholesterol to good cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Family history of high blood pressure
  • Stress
  • Abdominal obesity

Factors that can protect your heart:

  • Regular physical exercise
  • Consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables daily
  • Moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages (three to five drinks weekly)

AHA Recommendations*

Make a date (and keep it). Each year on your birthday, schedule a check-up. Have your blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose levels checked, and ask your doctor to help you reach or maintain a healthy weight. Be sure to follow your healthcare professional's recommendations, including taking prescribed medications.

Photo of running Tune in as you tone up. Add more physical activity to your life by stepping, marching or jogging in place for at least 15 minutes a day while watching your favorite TV shows. Increase your activity by five minutes each week until you're getting a minimum of 30 minutes most days of the week. Exercise and diet may not get you to your goal. If not, ask your doctor about adding medication.

Grab some H2O when you go. Take a water bottle with you wherever you go. It'll keep you hydrated and the bottle's weight will strengthen your arms.

Keep out of sight, out of mouth. Keep packages of unhealthy food hidden in the pantry. Put raw veggies and fruits in front in the refrigerator and healthy snacks in the front of the pantry, so that's what you see first. If you keep grabbing healthy foods for a minimum of 21 times, it will soon become a habit. Also, look for the American Heart Association heart-check mark. This easy, reliable grocery shopping tool helps you identify food that can be part of a sensible eating plan.

Photo of grocery bag Eat right to control cholesterol. Eating foods high in saturated fat can lead to high cholesterol. To help keep your cholesterol levels down, eat foods low in saturated fat, such as lean chicken or turkey (roasted or baked, with skin removed), fruits and veggies, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and whole grains.

Shake the salt habit. To help lower high blood pressure, watch your salt intake. It may be disguised in food labels as sodium alginate, sodium sulfite, sodium caseinate, disodium phosphate, sodium benzoate, sodium hydroxide, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and sodium citrate.

Kick butts. If you smoke, quit. Try this four-step way to snuff your habit. On Day 1, cut the number of cigarettes you smoke by half. On Day 3, cut the number of cigarettes you smoke in half again. On Day 5, 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, painless weight loss, take it easy. Each day, if you eat 200-300 calories less than you would normally consume, and exercise at least 30 minutes on most or all days of the week, you'll get closer to your goal and be able to achieve weight loss that's steady and painless.

Don't let a slip keep you down. If you get off your exercise schedule, have a cigarette or mess up on a meal, immediately get back on track toward re-establishing a healthy lifestyle.

Say, "Yea for me." To maintain momentum with exercising, losing weight or quitting smoking, keep track of your achievements and reward yourself by doing something you enjoy.

* Reprinted from the AHA website.

Related Links

American Heart Association (AHA): Specific Tips for Exercise Success

AHA: Advice for Parents

AHA: A Heart-Healthy Grocery Checklist