Love Your Heart 10 Things to Improve Heart Health

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

The American Heart Association lists three major risks for heart disease that you can’t alter: increasing age, gender (men have greater risk than women and tend to have attacks earlier in life), and heredity (those with heart disease in their family or who are of black, Mexican, American Indian, native Hawaiian and some Asian descent).

While these can’t change, you can mitigate your risk with lifestyle. Here are 10 tips from local health providers:

1.  Avoid tobacco. “Quit smoking,” said Gaurav Sharma, cardiologist with Sands Constellation Heart Institute.

2.  Get regular physical activity. “Get 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week,” Sharma said, “but any amount is beneficial. If you are mostly sedentary, even 15 minutes of walking daily has tremendous health benefit. You don’t have to become a marathoner. Consider a Fit Bit or another way to count your steps. Women should work up to 7,000 steps and men to 10,000.

3.  De-stress. “Find ways to relieve stress: exercise, mindfulness-spirituality, spending time with family and friends and be with nature and away from the chaos of daily city-urban-suburban life,” Sharma said.

4.  Limit alcohol. “If you don’t drink, don’t start,” Sharma said. “If you do drink, drink in moderation, which is one to two drinks per day for a woman and two to three drinks per day for a man at most, knowing that the more you drink, the higher your risk of cancer and heart arrhythmias, specifically atrial fibrillation. Don’t binge drink.”

5.  Control your weight. “Healthy body weight is a body mass index of less than 25 as a goal for most, and less than 23 for Asians. If you are over this number, try to achieve at least 5% body loss in the next 6 months. This amount has significant health benefit.”

6.  Keep regular check-ups. “Go see your primary physician on a regular basis to understand and manage your risk factors for heart disease,” Sharma said.

7. Keep your dental visits. “Poor dental health correlates with poor heart health,” Sharma said.

8.  Watch your numbers. “Make sure your blood pressure is controlled with the above lifestyle measures and medications as needed,” Sharma said.

“I set long-term goals for clients to have a fasting glucose below 90, HDL cholesterol above 50 for females, and above 40 for males, emphasize healthy blood pressure (below 120/80), and triglycerides under 150.,” said Heather Carrera, doctor of clinical nutrition at the office of Lesley James, MD in Pittsford.

9.  Trim your middle. “Clients’ goals include to have a waist circumference of less than 35 inches for females and less than 40 inches for males,” Carrera said.

10.  Eat a healthful diet. “This means a predominately whole plant food diet with minimal if any processed food (processed meat, refined grains, sugars) and less animal product, especially red and processed meat,” Sharma said.

“To reduce cardiovascular risk factors, I recommend a diet plan that supports healthy blood sugar called the cardiometabolic food plan from the Institute for Functional Medicine, which is loosely based on the Mediterranean diet but with certain therapeutic foods emphasized,” Carrera said.