Benefits of Maintaining a Healthy Heart

Health, Home & Family
on December 28, 2003

Change is good for your heart, says Eftexia Effie Palace of Waterford, Mich. Eight years ago, at 315 pounds, complications from angioplasty, bypass surgery and diabetes left her near death. Thats when she knew it was time for a change.

Since then, Ive lost 140 pounds, my blood pressure is down and I work out. I control my diabetes with diet and exercise, says Palace, a 70-year-old Greek-American grandmother. Being healthy, alive and with your family is worth more than (eating) a pan of baklava.

Taking care of your heart means taking care of yourself, says Dr. Tracy Stevens of Parkville, Mo. Most heart disease is preventable. That means keeping your weight and cholesterol in a healthy range, never smoking or drinking to excess, and staying active while also managing blood pressure and diabetes.

Chris Lee, 44, of Stanley, Kan., says prevention is worth the work. Heart disease and high blood pressure are in my family, Lee says. So, to stay healthy, I take care of myself. He sidelines his fast food urge by selecting low-fat foods from the grocery stores salad bar. He also exercises six days a week. My cholesterol is 150, says the father of two. Its all worth it because I want to be around to see my kids grow up.

Dr. Stevens recommends the following heart disease prevention strategies:

Be activeIncorporate 30 minutes of brisk physical activity in each day.

Eat wellBuild meals around fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meat, and whole grains. Avoid fried food, butter, lard and commercial snacks, which often contain types of fat and cholesterol that are particularly harmful to the heart.

Know your numbersHave your cholesterol checked annually and talk with your doctor about ways to keep it in a healthful range.

Halt bad habitsA direct connection exists between tobacco use and high blood pressure and heart disease. While research has shown a little red wine can be good for your heart, know that too much of a good thing can be bad for it.

Listen to your doctorIf you have diabetes or high blood pressure, talk with your doctor about the best ways to manage it. If youre on medication, take it exactly as prescribed.

Stop stressLaughter reduces stress and is good for the heart, Dr. Stevens says, so surround yourself with positive, supportive people who make you feel good about taking care of yourself and your heart.