You know: to eat right and keep your weight down.
You maybe didn’t know: We’re not just talking about nixing marbled steak and trans-fat-filled fries. It’s also about blood sugar, says Nieca Goldberg, MD, director of the New York University Women’s Heart Program and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association. Your body responds to high blood sugar by pumping out more insulin to try to turn that sugar into energy. "Too much insulin raises your triglycerides and causes inflammation of the arteries, making them more vulnerable to hardening," Dr. Goldberg explains.
Do this: In addition to choosing a diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol, eat lots of fiber-rich fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, says Nakela Cook, MD, MPH, medical officer at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI). Also, go easy on sweets and refined carbs, which can send blood sugar and insulin levels soaring. The American Heart Association recommends having just 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day.
You know: to snub out those ciggies for good.
You maybe didn’t know: Your husband’s habit could hurt your heart, too. Nonsmokers who are exposed to secondhand smoke at home or at work have a 25 to 30% higher risk of heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Do this: If you smoke, quit any way you can and put the tobacco cash toward a trip to Cancun to celebrate the end of your first smoke-free yearby then, you’ll have cut your heart disease risk in half, Dr. Goldberg says. (In 15 years, you’ll have the same risk as someone who’s never smoked.) Or use that beach outing to bribe a loved one who smokeswhen they call it quits, you’ll both benefit.
You know: to move your heinie.
You maybe didn’t know: You don’t have to be a lunatic about it. To cut your risk of heart attack and stroke by 35 to 50%, all you need is 30 minutes, five times a week, Dr. Goldberg says. You can even break that half-hour into three 10-minute intervals. Want to work out more? You’ll give your HDL ("good") cholesterol an extra boostand burn more calories, of course.
Do this: Anything that gets you breathing a bit heavily, that you enjoy, and that you’ll do consistently. Brisk walking, raking, or shoveling are all good, Dr. Goldberg says: "The important thing is to move, and do it regularly."