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Five Steps to a Healthier Heart

SATURDAY, Jan. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Five simple steps can help lower your risk of heart disease, says a leading expert on preventive cardiology.

About 58 million Americans have heart disease and more needs to be done to educate people about risk factors and prevention, said Dr. Holly Anderson, director of education and outreach at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute of New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

She offered the following heart health tips:

  • Know your numbers. Ask your doctor about what are considered normal numbers for blood pressure, cholesterol and triglycerides.
  • Start exercising. Walking for just 20 to 30 minutes a few days a week can reduce the risk of premature death by more than 50 percent. Physical activity reduces blood pressure, improves cholesterol, reduces stress, improves sleep, boosts mood, improves cognition and prevents memory loss.
  • Laugh. Just 15 minutes of laughter equals about 30 minutes of aerobic exercise in terms of cardiovascular health. Research has also linked laughter with reductions in pain and anxiety, health function of blood vessels, and increased levels of brain hormones that improve your mood.
  • Pay more attention to your waistline than your weight. The waistline is a better measurement of overall health than weight because the amount of fat around your waist is directly linked to high blood pressure and high cholesterol and can increase your risk of diabetes.
  • Get adequate sleep. Lack of sleep boosts blood pressure, induces stress, increases your appetite, slows your metabolism, dampens your mood and decreases cognition.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute outlines how to prevent and control heart disease risk factors.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, news release, Jan. 11, 2011

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