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6 Simple Things You Can Do to Improve Your Heart Health


Dr. Marcus Sublette, Aspirus Cardiologist

Heart disease is a leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States with many Americans having one or more contributing risk factors, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The good news is heart disease is largely preventable. Better heart health is possible when you make a commitment to change the things you can control.


“You can change your risk. You can do a lot to improve your chances of not having a heart attack,” says Marcus Sublette, MD, Aspirus Interventional Cardiologist. “It’s never too late to start making changes in your life to benefit yourself in the future.”


The CDC, American Heart Association (AHA) and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) offer 6 things that you can do right now to protect your future heart health:


Know Your Blood Pressure. Know your numbers and what they mean. If high, lowering your blood pressure can greatly reduce your risk for heart disease and stroke. A normal reading is under 120 systolic (top number) and under 80 diastolic (bottom number).


Track your blood pressure and discuss your readings with your health care provider.


Cut down on added sugar. A study published in JAMA Internal Medicine determined that people who got 17 to 21 percent of calories from added sugar in their diet had a 38 percent higher risk of dying from cardiovascular disease compared to those who consumed 8 percent of their calories from added sugar.


Eat less processed foods. It’s more than just the salt you add to food, 44 percent of the sodium we eat comes from common foods such as bread, cold cuts and cured meats, pizza, poultry, soups, sandwiches, cheese, pasta dishes, and chips. A lower sodium intake can help lower your blood pressure.


“The foods that are considered ‘heart healthy’ are mainly from what would be considered the Mediterranean Diet. That includes a diet high in polyunsaturated fats, including olive oil, as well as mainly vegetable proteins, and high in vegetables overall,” says Dr. Sublette.


Take your medicine. If you have been prescribed medication to treat high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, follow your provider’s instructions carefully. Don’t stop taking your medication without talking to your provider.


Get moving. Regular physical activity is essential to having a healthy heart. Moderate-intensity exercise for 2 hours and 30 minutes every week is a great way to lower your risk of heart disease. Always check with your provider before starting a new exercise program.


Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease. A Johns Hopkins study found that those who had a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 35 or higher developed the most heart failure. The more extra weight, the higher the risk of heart disease.


Talk to your health care provider to determine your risk for health disease and their recommendations for additional changes you may benefit from.


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