Lifestyle and home remedies

By Mayo Clinic Staff

How you live your life affects the health of your heart. Taking the following steps can help you not only prevent but also recover from a heart attack:

  • Don't smoke. If you smoke, the single most important thing you can do to improve your heart's health is to stop. It's hard to stop smoking by yourself, so ask your doctor to prescribe a treatment plan to help you kick the habit.
  • Avoid secondhand smoke. Being around secondhand smoke can potentially trigger a heart attack, since many of the chemicals in cigarettes that can damage your arteries are also in secondhand smoke.
  • Check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Ask your doctor how often you need to have your blood pressure and cholesterol levels monitored. If these levels are undesirably high, your doctor can prescribe changes to your diet and medications to help protect your cardiovascular health.
  • Get regular medical checkups. Some of the major risk factors for heart attack — high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes — cause no symptoms in their early stages. Your doctor can perform tests to check that you're free of these conditions. If a problem exists, you and your doctor can manage it early to prevent complications that can lead to a heart attack.
  • Exercise regularly. Regular exercise helps improve heart muscle function after a heart attack. Exercise is a major part of a cardiac rehabilitation program. Exercise helps prevent a heart attack by helping you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and control diabetes, elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure. Exercise doesn't have to be vigorous. For example, walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week can improve your health.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight strains your heart and can contribute to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Losing weight can lower your risk of heart disease.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. Too much saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet can narrow arteries to your heart. If you've had a heart attack, limit fat and cholesterol — and salt. A diet high in salt can raise your blood pressure. Follow your doctor's and dietitian's advice on eating a heart-healthy diet. Prepare heart-healthy meals together as a family. Fish, lean meats, beans and low-fat dairy are part of a heart-healthy diet. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants — nutrients that help prevent everyday wear and tear on your coronary arteries.
  • Manage diabetes. High blood sugar is damaging to your heart. Regular exercise, eating well and losing weight all help to keep blood sugar levels at more desirable levels. Many people also need medication to manage their diabetes.
  • Control stress. To reduce your risk of a heart attack, reduce stress in your day-to-day activities. Rethink workaholic habits and find healthy ways to minimize or deal with stressful events in your life.
  • If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. You shouldn't start drinking alcohol if you already opt not to. But, in moderation, alcohol helps raise HDL levels — the "good" cholesterol — and can have a protective effect against heart attack. For healthy adults, that means up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger. Excessive drinking can raise your blood pressure and triglyceride levels, increasing your risk of heart attack. Drinking more than one to two alcoholic drinks a day raises blood pressure, so cut back on your drinking if necessary. One drink is equivalent to 12 ounces (355 milliliters, or mL) of beer, 4 ounces (118 mL) of wine or 1.5 ounces (44 mL) of an 80-proof liquor.
May. 20, 2014

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