Simple steps for a heart-healthy lifestyle

Cardiovascular disease, including stroke, is the leading cause of death in the United States. The American Heart Association estimates up to 90% of cardiovascular diseases may be preventable with education and action. With over 30 years of heart disease prevention experience, I know that reducing your risk is possible, and I want everyone to understand how small changes can have big impacts on long-term heart health.

The best thing you can do to improve heart health is to create a good lifestyle plan that is designed to strengthen your cardiovascular system. A good plan should start with the 8 simple steps below.

Include Physical Activity in Your Day
Exercise and physical activity can provide many benefits, both to the body and brain. Nearly half of the population does not meet the minimum recommended amount of exercise for heart health. A good way to start strengthening your heart is carving out 75 minutes or more per week of vigorous aerobic activity or 150 minutes or more per week of moderate intensity aerobic activity.

If you are new to exercising, do not let this discourage you. This can easily transfer to 15 minutes of vigorous exercise 5 days a week or 30 minutes of moderate exercise 5 days a week. Try breaking up your exercise into three to four sessions over the course of a week. For example, 10 to 15 minutes of brisk walking at a time can be a more manageable goal.

Tips for Success:
Set Goals: Establish realistic goals and make small, lasting changes to set yourself up for success.
Keep Going: Once you reach these goals, don’t stop. Gradually increase your activity and intensity to gain even more health benefits.

Walk More: There are many ways to get active. You may find walking the easiest way to start. When you are ready, you can add other activities, such as hiking, running, dancing, water aerobics, swimming and more.
Add it Up: Find ways to move throughout your daily routine, whether it’s at work, on your commute or at home. Every active minute counts toward your goal.
Make a Habit: Do something active every day at about the same time so it becomes a regular habit. Put it on your schedule so you’re less likely to miss a day.