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Five Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy

Five Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy

Everyone knows heart disease is bad for your body and bad for your health; it's the number one killer in this country. "The rising rate of obesity and the aging of our population are major contributing factors in the high rate of heart disease," says Dartmouth-Hitchcock interventional cardiologist Megan Coylewright, MD, MPH, associate director of the Structural Heart Disease Program in the Heart and Vascular Center. "While you can't control family history and aging," she says, "there are ways to manage and lower the risk of developing heart disease by incorporating heart-healthy habits into daily activities." Small adjustments to diet and daily habits can have huge benefits to heart health and your waistline.

5 Tips for Maintaining a Heart-healthy Lifestyle

  • Quit Smoking: It's one of the best things you can do to improve overall health. Your physician can help you find a smoking cessation program.
  • Get Physically Active: Incorporate 30 minutes of moderate exercise into your daily routine (brisk walking counts). Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car a few rows farther away, or take the long way when walking to meetings.
  • Maintain a Healthy Diet: Eat 4-5 cups per day of fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables. Lower your intake of salt, fat and cholesterol by avoiding packaged, processed and pre-prepared foods.
  • Maintain a Healthy Weight: This benefits your circulatory system and lowers your risk of developing chronic diseases like diabetes.
  • Manage your Blood Pressure and Cholesterol: High blood pressure and high cholesterol are two of the biggest risk factors for heart disease.

One in every four deaths in the U.S. is linked to heart disease. Recognizing the signs and symptoms of a heart attack is important; fast action can save lives. If you're experiencing any of the below symptoms, make an appointment with your physician.

The Warning Signs of a Heart Attack:

  • Chest pain or discomfort
  • Upper body pain or discomfort (in the shoulder, arms, back, neck, jaw, or upper stomach)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea, lightheadedness, or cold sweats

Learn more about heart health from Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Heart and Vascular Center.

Elizabeth O'Neill, MPH, is a research coordinator for the Structural Heart Disease Program of the Heart and Vascular Center at Dartmouth-Hitchcock.