Heart disease may be the leading cause of death in America, but being heart smart can help you lower your chances of problems such as cardiovascular disease, heart attack or high blood pressure. Learn how to keep your heart healthy and strong with our list below:
1. Don't smoke. Smoking is a major factor in heart disease--it can increase the risk of high blood pressure, blood clots and the fatty buildup in the arteries called atherosclerosis that can lead to heart attacks. To read about a family that experienced the devastating health effects of cigarette smoking, click here.
2. Watch what you eat. A healthy diet maintains a healthy weight, which lowers the risk of heart disease. Some of the best foods for heart health? Berries, flaxseeds and dark, leafy greens.
3. Get moving. Exercise makes your muscles strong--and that includes the heart muscle. An easy way to get the exercise you and your heart need is walking, which is especially beneficial when you are taking other steps toward a healthy heart, such as lowering stress and watching your cholesterol. When you are walking or working out, make sure to keep track of your heart rate to get the maximum benefits of exercising.
4. Know your heart age. Feeling young at heart gets a whole new meaning with a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that found the "age" of your heart--calculated with risk factors such as obesity and high blood pressure--plays a role in your risk of a heart attack. You can learn more, and calculate your heart age, here.
5. Get regular checkups. Just like you'd take your car in for maintenance to keep it running smoothly, you should visit your doctor to make sure your heart's in prime condition. Your physician can run tests and screenings to get a full picture of your heart health, as well as discuss any risk factors and offer guidance for lifestyle changes.
6. Listen to your body. Being in tune with your health helps you know when something is amiss, such as with silent heart attacks. Knowing the warning signs of heart trouble means you're likely to seek out valuable medical attention--and in the case of heart attacks, quick intervention can be the difference between life and death.
7. Keep track of your heart health. To get a full picture of the state of your heart, it helps to not only have healthy lifestyle habits but also have your numbers when it comes to cholesterol and blood pressure. Measure all those factors with the help of the American Heart Association's Life's Simple 7 checklist.