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Q. What can I do to keep my heart healthy?

A. ys to Kee
Your heart is always

working. It beats 60 to 100

8W p
times a minute. It pumps Close social bonds and a sense of
an average of 2,000 gallons community can help you live longer.
of blood every day. It’s a muscle that
“People who are lonely and
keeps you alive. That’s why heart
depressed are three to 10 times
healthy habits are so important.
more likely to get sick and die
Heart disease is the leading prematurely,” says Dr. Dean Ornish.
cause of death in the world.1 “Those who have a strong sense
But it’s largely preventable. of love and community live longer.
“The lowest-tech approach – I don’t know any other single
diet and lifestyle – can undeniably factor that affects our health…


to such as strong degree.”7

H e a r t H e al
reverse heart disease,” says

Dr. Michael Greger. He’s the author 8. Get a check-up. At least once a
of the book: How Not to Die: Discover year, schedule a check-up with your
the Foods Scientifically Proven to doctor. Check your blood pressure.
Prevent and Reverse Disease.2 Get a basic blood test. These
exams can measure risk factors for
Here are eight ways to heart health.
raise cholesterol, and up the risk
keep your heart healthy:
for a heart attack or stroke. Quit Want to keep your heart
1. Eat more plants like fruits, and stay smoke-free for a year, healthy? Make an effort to do
vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and you’ll cut your risk for heart these eight lifestyle choices.
nuts, and seeds. These foods are disease in half.5
packed with vitamins and nutrients. 5. Avoid or limit alcohol. If you drink, References
They’re low in calories. Eating this limit alcohol to no more than 1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
way can keep your heart healthy, two drinks per day for men. One (2017). Leading causes of death. From: www.cdc.
and even reverse heart disease.3 gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm
drink per day for women, zero if
2. Be more active. Aim for at least pregnant. Or just avoid alcohol. 2. Greger, M. (2015). How Not to Die: Discover
the foods scientifically proven to prevent and
30 minutes a day. Run if you want. Why? Alcohol can increase blood reverse disease. New York, N.Y.: Flat Iron Books.
But you can also walk, swim, or pressure and triglyceride levels. It
3. Caldwell, E., et al. (2014). A way to
cycle. If you’re extra busy, break can even disrupt your heartbeat. reverse CAD? The Journal of Family
it up into 10-minute chunks of 6. Manage stress in healthy ways. Practice. 63(7):356-364. From: dresselstyn.
exercise. Even a little exercise burns Stress can lead to choices that com/JFP_06307_Article1.pdf
calories, and helps control weight, harm heart health. Maybe you 4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
cholesterol, and blood pressure. overeat, start smoking, or drink (2016). Obesity and overweight. From: www.
3. Maintain a healthy weight, or too much when you’re stressed
5. World Health Organization. (2018).
lose weight if you need to. About out. Find other ways to deal with
Tobacco-free initiative. From: www.who.
71 percent of all adults in the U.S. stress like exercise, meditation, int/tobacco/quitting/benefits/en/
are overweight or obese.4 Being yoga, volunteer work, or
6. Valtorta, N.K., et al. (2016). Loneliness and
overweight makes it harder for enjoying a hobby. social isolation as risk factors for coronary
your heart to pump blood. It also 7. Develop healthy relationships. heart disease and stroke: systematic
raises your risk for other health review and meta-analysis of longitudinal
You can’t measure this like weight
observational studies. Heart, 102:1009-
problems linked to heart disease. or blood pressure. But it makes a 1016. doi:10.1136/heartjnl-2015-308790
4. Don’t smoke, or quit if you do. difference. A recent study found 7. Ornish, D. (2016). Love & Survival:
Smoking damages arteries in the that social isolation increases the 8 pathways to intimacy and health.
heart. This can reduce blood flow, risk of heart disease by 29 percent.6 New York: N.Y.: Harper Collins.

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Written by Joseph Raphael, DrPH, MBA, LMFT, MA, CHES, HAPM