Living Well

8 Tips for a Healthy Heart

Thanh Nguyen, M.D.
8 Tips for a Healthy Heart

Life is a balancing act that requires us to juggle your career, family and friends among many other roles and responsibilities. However, your health should never take a backseat in life and caring for your heart should be a top priority. Cardiovascular disease is the top cause of death in the United States for both men and women. Living heart healthy can reduce your risk for heart disease by as much as 80 percent. There are eight easy ways to help control your risk of developing heart disease.

  1. Quit smoking

Cigarette smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Smoking damages your circulatory system. It also increases your risk for coronary heart disease, hardened arteries, aneurysm and blood clots. Smoking can also reduce your good cholesterol (HDL) and your lung capacity.

  1. Get active

Regular, moderate exercise can improve your health and your quality of life. The American Heart Association recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day, five times per week. Physical activity lowers your risks for heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

Multiple people running on treadmills

  1. Manage stress

Long-term stress can cause an increase in heart rate and blood pressure, which can damage the artery walls. Stress affects each of us in different ways. It’s important to understand what causes your stress and how to reduce it. The American Heart Association recommends setting reasonable goals, such as daily relaxation or daily positive self-talk.

  1. Sleep more

Studies show that poor sleep quality can increase your risk of high blood pressure, arrhythmia and heart disease.  The American Heart Association recommends adults get six to eight hours of sleep per night. You can improve your quality of sleep by developing an evening routine, exercising and drinking less caffeine.

Man sleeping

  1. Eat a heart-healthy diet

You should be eating a balanced, healthy meal with plenty of nutrients from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and low-fat dairy. The American Heart Association recommends the following consumption of foods:

  • Fruits and vegetables: At least 4.5 cups a day
  • Fish (preferably oily fish, like salmon): At least two 3.5-ounce servings a week
  • Fiber-rich whole grains: At least three 1-ounce servings a day
  • Nuts, legumes and seeds: At least 4 servings a week, opting for unsalted varieties whenever possible

It is also important to minimize sodium and saturated fats, and to avoid processed meats and sugary drinks to maintain a heart-healthy diet.

  1. Control diabetes

Diabetes is a condition that causes blood sugar to rise to dangerous levels. According to the American Heart Association, at least 68% of people with diabetes aged 65 and older die of some form of heart disease and 16% die from stroke. However, diabetes is treatable and often preventable with healthy lifestyle choices.

Measuring blood sugar

  1. Control high blood pressure and cholesterol

Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in all cells of the body. Our bodies use cholesterol to make cell membranes and certain hormones.  Your body creates all the cholesterol you need and circulates it through the blood. But cholesterol is also found in foods from animal sources, such as meat, poultry and full-fat dairy products. Your liver produces more cholesterol when you eat a diet high in saturated and trans fats.

Excess cholesterol can form plaque between layers of artery walls, making it harder for your heart to circulate blood. Plaque buildup can create blood clots, which can cause a stroke or heart attack. It’s important to keep your bad cholesterol (LDL) low, which forms plaque in your vein and arteries, and your good cholesterol (HDL) high.

High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, means the blood running through your arteries flow with too much force and puts pressure on your arteries, stretching them past their healthy limit and causing microscopic tears. Our body begins to heal these tears with scar tissue. However, the scar tissue traps plaque and white blood cells which can form into blockages, blood clots, and hardened, weakened arteries. It’s important to keep your blood pressure within healthy range, which will reduce the strain on your heart, arteries, and kidneys.

  1. Drink less alcohol

Heavy drinking can cause a spike in your blood pressure, which can lead to heart failure and stroke. It’s important to drink in moderation. According to the U.S Dietary Guidelines for Americans, moderate drinking is one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Also, consider not drinking at all and opting for healthy non-alcoholic beverages such as mineral water with fresh lime or orange.

SOURCE: American Heart Association

Click here to learn more about heart healthy habits in Touro’s online health library.

Heart Health Panel: Lunch and Learn

Join Cardiologist Thanh Nguyen, Dietitian Liz Cabrera and Exercise Physiologist Robert Banta to learn how you can live heart healthy and prevent or successfully manage heart disease.

The Q & A style event will take place on Thursday, February 16 from 12pm to 1pm in Touro’s Presidents Room on the 2nd Floor of the hospital.

Registration is required.

Dr. Nguyen Dr. Nguyen grew up in Baton Rouge and is Vietnam-born. He chose to specialize in cardiology for its emphasis on physiology and the instant impact that cardiovascular procedures can have. As an interventional cardiologist, he performs both minor surgical procedures, such as pacemaker insertion to regulate irregular heart rhythms, and nonsurgical procedures, including balloon angioplasties and stent placement to improve blood flow to and from the heart. 

He supervises cardiology fellows at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. To become interventional cardiologists, fellows must complete one to two years of training in addition to their three-year general cardiology fellowships.