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12 Tips to Prevent Heart Disease

What if we told you your chances of having a heart attack are greatly reduced if you follow six easy steps? Well, it's true. Women who didn't smoke, had a normal body mass index (BMI), got at least two and a half hours of exercise a week, watched an hour or less of TV a day, ate a healthy diet and limited alcohol to a drink or less a day had a 92 percent lower risk for coronary heart disease, according to a study published in January 2015 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Up your odds even more by following these tips.

1. Whittle your middle

If you're shaped more like an apple than a pear, you're at a higher risk for heart disease. The risk rises when waist size goes over 35 inches for women and over 40 for men. The best way to reduce your waist size is by losing weight and exercising, but a study published in the journal Lipids noted that dietary supplements with coconut oil may also help shrink belly fat.

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Floss at least once a day to reduce your risk of a heart attack.
Nick Ferarri

2. Floss

Studies point to a link between gum disease and higher rates of heart disease. Experts suggest two theories about why this is so. One is that mouth bacteria can enter the bloodstream through the gums and increase artery plaque, which can lead to heart attack and stroke. Another is that our bodies create inflammation in response to the infection, causing blood cells to swell and narrowing arteries. The American Academy of Periodontology recommends flossing at least once a day to prevent gum disease.

3. Sweat when you exercise

It's not how much time you spend working out but how hard you're doing it. You need to pump up your heart rate until you're perspiring. Experts advise pushing till you're modestly out of breath. (If you can sing, you're not working out hard enough. If you can't talk, you're overdoing it.)

4. Get enough vitamin D

"Low levels of vitamin D can increase your risk of stroke and heart attack," says Steven Masley, M.D., author of The 30-Day Heart Tune-Up. Ask your doc to test your levels and prescribe the right supplement dosage for you.

5. Cuddle more

Snuggling not only feels good — it reduces stress and triggers the release of the hormone oxytocin, which has been shown to help lower blood pressure. Don't have a reliable cuddle partner? Rescue a pup from the pound.

6. Think outside the pillbox

If you're taking nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) for chronic pain, you might want to try promising alternative treatments instead. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) just strengthened its warning against NSAIDs, saying they can increase heart attack and stroke risk even if you've been taking them only a short while. Possible relief alternatives for chronic pain include acupuncture, biofeedback, therapeutic touch, Reiki, hypnosis, chiropractic adjustments — even medical marijuana.

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Reduce your risk of heart disease by making simple lifestyle changes.
Nick Ferrari

7. Keep it down

Research shows that for every 10 decibels of added roadway traffic noise near your home, your risk of stroke increases by 10 percent.

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8. Stick with your statins

If you've been prescribed statins, take them as directed. Studies show they're effective in preventing heart attacks, particularly for those with a genetic predisposition or who have survived a heart attack. A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association confirms that when statin use is widened to include people at medium risk, this further reduces deaths from heart disease.

9. LOL at those online cat videos

Laughing out loud — we always crack up at the vid of the kitten in the hamster ball — causes your blood vessels to dilate by 22 percent, which helps improve blood flow and, in turn, lowers blood pressure. Purrrrfect.

10. Stop stewing

Forgiveness helps to reduce blood pressure and lower your heart rate, especially when it comes to betrayal and conflict, according to a study published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine. Researchers hypothesize that releasing anger decreases stress, a known trigger of heart disease.

11. Time to Retire?

Or at least cut your hours. If you’re on the job more than 55  hours a week for 10 years, the risk of developing heart disease increases by 16 percent compared to those who work 45 hours or less, according to a study in the March 2016 issue of The Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine. Work 60 hours or more a week and there’s a 35 percent increase in cardiac problems like angina, heart attack, and stroke. 

12. Make an aspirin adjustment

The FDA no longer recommends taking a daily aspirin to prevent first-time heart attacks. The side effects associated with regular use over a long period of time, including gastrointestinal bleeding and stroke, make it not worth these serious risks. The exception to the rule: If you’ve already had a heart attack, and your doctor gives you the go-ahead, continue to take your daily dose.

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