How To Lead a Well-Balanced Life
lifestyle changes to protect your heart

Heart health is something every American should be concerned about — heart disease is the leading killer of both men and women in the United States. Fortunately, a healthy heart is often within your control. Certain risk factors for heart disease, such as age and family history, can’t be changed. But you can help limit hereditary risks as well as minimize other risk factors for heart disease with the right lifestyle choices. And there’s a big bonus: With every action you take to protect your heart, your overall health will get a boost, too. Here’s how:

1. Get moving. Although it can be tempting to veg out once in awhile, being too much of a couch potato is a risk factor for heart disease. In fact, a Harvard study found that watching TV for two hours a day increased the risk of developing heart disease by 15 percent, and additional TV time further increased heart disease risk. That means step one of a heart-healthy plan is to make time for physical activity. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends being active for at least 30 minutes each day, even if you have to break it into three 10-minute sessions. Regular exercise also speeds weight loss, which is important because obesity can increase the risk for heart disease. If you need more reasons to get moving, know that exercise helps to reduce high blood pressure and stimulates good blood circulation, which benefit your heart and overall health.

Wondering how to make sure you stick with a newfound activity? Enlist a friend or co-worker to take a walk with you each day during your lunch break or after you take your kids to school. A fitness buddy may be just what you need to keep your commitment to staying active.

2. Kick the habit. Smoking cigarettes is tied to a number of potentially fatal health problems, including cancer, lung disease, stroke, and heart disease. Even if you have no other risk factors, smoking raises your risk of developing heart disease by two to four times, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Smoking causes plaque buildup and hardened arteries, both of which make your heart work harder.

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