10 Heart-Healthy Habits to Lower Your Risk of a Second Heart Attack

After surviving a heart attack, it’s natural to think that you’re in the clear. However, there are certain risk factors that can put you at an increased risk of having another heart attack in the future—even if you haven’t had any symptoms yet. If you want to avoid putting yourself in danger of having another heart attack, make sure you stick to these heart-healthy habits every day.

1) Exercise, Exercise, Exercise

You may have heard it a million times before, but exercise is really important for your heart. There are many different kinds, but if you can swing it, aim for 30 minutes per day. That’s an easy target to hit: two 15-minute walks and one 30-minute workout at least five days each week. Even just 10 minutes of activity each day adds up over time. If you can’t fit in 30 minutes at once, break it up into three 10 minute blocks! Keep that blood flowing!

2) Sleep Well

Getting enough sleep plays an important role in cardiovascular health. A recent study, conducted at Harvard University’s School of Public Health, found that people who slept six hours or less had higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), which is linked with inflammation and increased risk for heart disease and other serious health problems. Sleep also helps regulate cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure, all important markers for cardiovascular health.

3) Eat Better

Eating better is simple. It all comes down to three steps: Eat more fruits and vegetables, watch your portion sizes, and reduce saturated fats. If you haven’t made any changes to your diet yet, or if you’re already looking for new ways to make healthy eating a habit, these tips can help get you started on a healthier path.

4) Quit Smoking

Smoking, and especially secondhand smoke, is one of most preventable risk factors for heart disease. In fact, nonsmokers who live with smokers have an increased risk of heart attack. Don’t let yourself become that nonsmoker statistic—give up smoking for good today. Not only will you lower your own risks, but others in your home will as well.

5) Avoid Stress

Getting stressed out has become so common that we hardly notice how much stress is involved in our lives. But when you are stressed, your blood pressure increases and cholesterol levels go up, making you more likely to have a heart attack or stroke. The good news is that it’s possible for anyone with heart disease to live long and healthy lives. You just need to make some changes in your life and stay focused on eating well, exercising regularly, managing stress and taking your medications as prescribed by your doctor.

6) Get Treated for Hypertension

High blood pressure (or hypertension) often leads to heart disease, and about half of those who have one heart attack will experience another within 10 years. One way to lower your risk is by getting treated for hypertension. High blood pressure can be managed through changes in diet, lifestyle, and sometimes medication; if your blood pressure is high enough, you might even need surgery or other procedures.

7) Watch Cholesterol Levels

One of the most common risk factors for heart attack is high cholesterol. While there are several types of lipoproteins (which comprise your blood lipid profile), we’re mostly concerned with two: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL). When you get checked for cholesterol, your doctor will look at these numbers first. The target range is between 100 and 129 mg/dL for LDL, and between 40 and 60 mg/dL for HDL.

8) Maintain Normal Weight

First, keep your weight in check. Heart attacks are more common among overweight and obese people, so it’s important to maintain a healthy weight. In fact, maintaining normal body weight can reduce your risk of a heart attack by 30 percent.

9) Be Aware of Depression/Anxiety

Most people don’t think about mental health as part of cardiovascular health, but it is. According to Mental Health America, over 60 million adults in America are affected by mood disorders, and one in four people experience some kind of anxiety disorder each year.

10) Monitor Medications

A second heart attack can occur after weeks or months if you continue to take blood pressure medicine, cholesterol drugs, and diabetes medication. If you’ve had a heart attack and take any of these medications, be sure to consult your doctor about possible interactions with other drugs that might affect blood clotting, such as aspirin. Also keep in mind that most drugs that thin your blood—such as aspirin—don’t work for people who have already had one heart attack.

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