Improve Heart Health

Aetna InteliHealthSM, with content partner Harvard Medical School, provides you with top-quality health information and breaking medical news. The InteliHealth 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

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