AARP Smart Guide: Healthy Heart
19 easy, expert-endorsed ideas to help you care for your heart morning, noon and night
Never underestimate the heart-healthy power of small changes.
Saying yes to a bowl of juicy grapes instead of a handful of salt-and-vinegar chips, clicking “off” before another episode of your favorite binge TV series rolls, even letting in rays of early-morning sunshine primes your metabolism, your arteries and your heart for optimal performance, says noninvasive cardiologist Pelbreton Balfour, M.D., of Baptist Heart and Vascular Institute in Pensacola, Florida.
“People may not realize it, but these healthy behaviors can have a big impact on heart health — preventing cardiovascular disease and helping people with heart disease stay healthier,” Balfour says. “And you don’t have to make a lot of changes at once. That can be overwhelming. Pick one — like getting more activity or eating a healthier diet — and stick with it until it’s a habit. Then, add another.”
There’s hard science behind the benefits of little upgrades. Cardiologists like Balfour see the results when they look at images of the heart, measure how well their patients’ tickers are functioning and track major heart-health indicators. “Comprehensive lifestyle improvements prevent the natural age-associated increase in blood pressure, glucose, weight and cholesterol,” says cardiologist Roger Blumenthal, M.D., director of Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease. “Better lifestyle habits are the cornerstone of preventive strategies.”
Bottom line: Healthy choices could reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease by 50 percent or more, according to a 2020 review of 20 studies involving more than a million people. If you already have heart disease, they can cut odds for a second heart attack or worsening heart failure and even allow you to use fewer or lower doses of your medications, Blumenthal adds.
So, what helps? Start with these easy, research-proven and expert-endorsed ways to make heart-smart choices every moment of your day, separated by morning, afternoon and night (and even weekends).
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