Tips for Heart Health from Noel Bairey Merz, M.D.,Director of the Women’s Heart Center at the Cedars-Sinai HeartInstitute
Don’t put it off any longer. It’s time to do everything you
you should be doing: exercising, eating a low-fat-high-fiber diet,losing weight and quitting smoking. Thousands of studies havetold you this. Now, just do it.2.Don’t fool yourself. Don’t think that just because you eathealthfully, it’s okay to smoke a little. Studies have shown thatwhen it comes to lifestyle changes, you have to do it all or youdon’t reap the benefit of any of it.3.Time yourself. For heart health, you need to do 30 minutes of physical activity a day. (To lose weight, you’ll need to work up to60 minutes a day.) Your activity could be as low-tech as walkingto do your errands or as regimented as a daily exercise class. Butremember, fewer than 20 percent of adults achieve 30 minutes of sustained activity every day, so watch the clock.4.Focus on fitness level, not whether you are fat. If you’re fit, beinga few pounds overweight is more likely due to increased muscleand doesn’t matter as much. Once you start exercising andbecoming more fit, it becomes easier to make healthy foodchoices.5.Know the symptoms. Many of us think we know what a heartattack looks like: The man who first senses a tingling sensation inhis arm before gripping his chest and falling to the floor. Onlyproblem is, it’s different for women, who more typically haveextreme fatigue, nausea and a feeling of tightness around theirchest.6.Keep aspirin handy. First, check with your healthcare provider toensure that aspirin is safe for you. If you notice symptoms of aheart attack, consider popping an aspirin in your mouthimmediately. Then get yourself to the hospital. When you arriveat the hospital, make sure the admitting nurse or doctor knowsthat you think you’re having a heart attack.
Know your numbers. What’s your blood pressure? What’s yourcholesterol? Fasting blood sugar? Numbers can tell a lot. Seeyour doctor and keep track of your numbers. Optimal numbersare a total cholesterol lower than 180 mg/dl (milligrams perdecileter), an HDL cholesterol greater than 50 for women and