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Improve Your Heart Health

This information was reviewed and approved by Andrew M. Freeman, MD, FACC, FACP

Use Exercise as Medicine, and See How This Free Therapy Works as Well as Most Medications

You can significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, including your cholesterol level and blood pressure, by making small lifestyle changes, according to experts at National Jewish Health in Denver. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death and disability in the United States. Each year, heart disease kills more Americans than cancer. National Jewish Health Cardiologist Andrew Freeman, MD, offers these tips to help you improve your heart health:

Watch your salt. Did you know most Americans get enough salt by the time they are done with breakfast? Two slices of bread have 500 mg, and one bowl of corn flakes has 600 mg. The latest guidelines recommend no more than 1500 mg of salt each day for many folks with high blood pressure and other diagnoses. Controlling your salt intake will help keep your blood pressure down.

Extra steps add up. Quit circling the parking lot looking for that spot close to the door. Park farther away, and take the extra steps. Take the stairs rather than the elevator. If you can’t make it all the way to the floor you need, do as many flights as you can before jumping on the elevator. Aim for 10,000 steps a day.

Get your 150. The latest guidelines suggest that everyone walk or exercise briskly at least 150 minutes every week. That’s 22 minutes every day, or just 30 minutes five times a week. Exercise truly is your best medicine. Exercise has been shown to reduce cardiovascular disease (i.e., heart attack, stroke, hypertension) and also helps with quitting smoking, stress and mood, bone density and cognitive abilities.

Choose the vegetarian option. You don’t have to jump straight into a strict vegetarian or vegan diet. Resolve to have a Meatless Monday (or perhaps even more than one day). At lunch, a simple step is to substitute peanut butter and fruit preserves sandwiches for deli meat. Going vegetarian even once a week can improve your cholesterol, blood pressure and salt intake. In light of the latest dietary guidelines and World Health Organization suggestions, eating many more fruits, vegetables and whole grains is not only good for cardiac health, but can also significantly reduce cancer risk! Try some of our healthy recipes

Time your medication. Taking your cholesterol medication at night can help it be more effective. The enzymes in your liver that make cholesterol are most active at night, so taking your medication before bed gives you the highest blood levels at the most important time.

Work on mindfulness. Yes, the mind-body connection is proven to affect cardiovascular health. Work on stress relief, meditation, mindfulness, prayer or some other way to de-stress. Find ways to connect and help others. Life is stressful, but facing and neutralizing those stressors can do wonders for one’s health.

 This information has been approved by Andrew M. Freeman, MD, FACC, FACP (February 2016).