Improve Heart Health

Aetna InteliHealth®, with content partner Harvard Medical School, provides you with top-quality health information and breaking medical news. Known as The Trusted Source®, the website is recognized as a leading authority on health and wellness.

Lifestyle changes for a healthier heart

The lifestyle choices to keep your heart healthy are similar to what you should do to help prevent many other diseases, such as diabetes and certain types of cancer. If you have coronary heart disease or are at high risk to develop it, you should do the following:

  • Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits while avoiding trans fats and saturated fats.
  • Keep blood pressure in the normal range, ideally with a systolic blood pressure of less than 120 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).
  • Don't smoke.
  • Get your low-density lipoprotein, or LDL (bad), cholesterol under 100 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL) and perhaps as low as 70 mg/dL. This usually requires medications such as a statin drug.
  • Maintain a healthy weight.
  • Strive to keep your blood sugar levels normal.
  • Manage stress.
  • Become more physically active, and make daily exercise a priority at an intensity level recommended by your doctor.

Get moving to reduce the risk of heart disease

A physically active lifestyle benefits your heart in several ways: It increases your heart's ability to pump blood, promotes weight loss and can help protect against high blood pressure and diabetes. What's more, regular exercise lowers triglyceride levels while increasing levels of "good" HDL cholesterol. By gradually increasing the amount of exercise you do, you can improve your cardiovascular and overall fitness level in as little as eight weeks.

Read more about changing your sedentary lifestyle

Exercising with a heart condition

If you’re recovering from a heart attack or have been diagnosed with coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure, regular exercise can be a vital part of your therapeutic program. However, this exercise should be tailored to your medical situation. In most cases, you will need a specific rehabilitation prescription that is designed and supervised by a physician or cardiac rehabilitation specialist.

Read more about exercising with a heart condition

How stress affects heart disease

Harnessed constructively, stress can fuel creativity and personal accomplishment. But when unmanaged and out of control, stress takes a terrible toll on your body. Research seems to suggest that your personality, the stressful events in your life and your body's physiological reaction to stress can increase your risk of heart disease. The stress/heart disease connection, however, is still a theory. Stress is difficult to study, because it's hard to measure the psychological and physical responses to stress.

Read more about stress & heart disease

1996-2014. Aetna Inc. All rights reserved. All information is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should seek prompt medical care for any specific health issues and consult your physician before starting a new fitness regimen. Use of this online service is subject to the disclaimer and the terms and conditions. External website links provided on this site are meant for convenience and for informational purposes only; they do not constitute an endorsement. These external links open in a different window. The Aetna InteliHealth website subscribes to the HONcode principles of the Health On the Net Foundation. "InteliHealth" and "The Trusted Source" are trademarks of Aetna Inc.

Feedback

aetna.com

JavaScript is required.

In order to have the best experience on Aetna.com, Javascript needs to be enabled.
Learn how to change your browser settings to enable Javascript.

You are now leaving the Aetna website.

Links to various non-Aetna sites are provided for your convenience only. Aetna Inc. and its subsidiary companies are not responsible or liable for the content, accuracy, or privacy practices of linked sites, or for products or services described on these sites.

Continue >