May 29, 2024

Checklist for Men’s Heart Health

By Dr. Tong Zhu of Elliot Cardiovascular Consultants  

As a cardiologist, I've seen firsthand the impact that heart disease can have on individuals and their loved ones. It's a condition that doesn't discriminate based on age, gender, or background. Fortunately, there are steps we can take to reduce our risk and strengthen our hearts.  

To all men, and their loved ones: Men’s Health Month is a good time to examine heart health and upgrade habits.

10 ways to improve heart health and overall health

  1. Quit Smoking or Don’t Smoke: Smoking is a leading cause of heart disease, so if you smoke, quitting is one of the most impactful choices you can make for your heart health. It is never too late to quit smoking, but your likelihood of death decreases the earlier you stop. Seek support from friends, family, or health care professionals to kick this habit for good. QUIT now NH is an excellent resource. Just text “quit” to 47848. 
  2. Eat for Your Heart: A heart-healthy diet is key. Focus on consuming a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Avoid processed foods and limit saturated and trans fats, cholesterol, sodium, and added sugars. Practice portion control and fuel your body with the nutrients it needs. Pro tip: shop at the outer edge of the supermarket and avoid the packaged and processed foods in the middle.  
  3. Move Every Day: Physical activity is essential for maintaining a healthy heart. Aim for at least 150 minutes (about 2 and a half hours) of moderate-intensity exercise per week, such as brisk walking, cycling, or swimming. Find activities you enjoy and make them a regular part of your routine.  
  4. Lose Excess Weight: Carrying excess weight puts added strain on the heart and increases the risk of cardiovascular problems. Aim for gradual, sustainable weight loss through a balanced diet and regular exercise. Small changes can lead to significant improvements in your heart health over time. Sleep for heart health 
  5. Get Quality Sleep: Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to heightened blood pressure, inflammation, and obesity, all of which are risk factors for coronary artery disease. Moreover, sleep apnea, a condition characterized by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep, exacerbates these risks by contributing to hypertension, arrhythmias, and other cardiovascular issues. Getting enough quality sleep is essential for promoting overall cardiovascular health.  
  6. Reduce Stress: Chronic stress can take a toll on your heart over time and increases your risk for sudden cardiac death and heart attack. Practice stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness meditation, yoga, deep breathing exercises, or hobbies that help you relax. Prioritize self-care and make time for activities that bring you joy and peace of mind. 
  7. Limit Salt: Excessive salt intake can raise blood pressure, increasing the risk of heart disease. Be mindful of the amount of salt in your diet and opt for fresh, whole foods whenever possible. Experiment with herbs, spices, and other flavorings to add taste to your meals without relying on salt. 
  8. Treat High Blood Pressure and Diabetes: High blood pressure and diabetes significantly increase the risk of heart disease. Monitor your blood pressure regularly, and if it's elevated, work with your health care provider to develop a treatment plan. Similarly, manage diabetes through medication, diet, exercise, and regular monitoring to keep your heart in good shape. Monitor blood pressure for heart health
  9. Control Cholesterol: Elevated cholesterol levels contribute to plaque buildup in the arteries, increasing the risk of heart attacks and strokes. Prioritize heart-healthy fats, fiber-rich foods, and cholesterol-lowering medications, if prescribed by your doctor. Regularly monitor your cholesterol levels and take proactive steps to keep them in check. 
  10. Visit Your Doctor for Regular Screenings: Regular check-ups with your health care provider are crucial for monitoring your heart health and catching any issues early. Schedule routine screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and other relevant tests based on your age and risk factors. 

Incorporating these principles into your lifestyle can significantly reduce your risk of heart disease and improve your overall well-being. Remember that small changes can make a big difference, and investing in your heart health today will pay dividends for years to come. Take control of your health and prioritize your heart—it's the best gift you can give yourself and your loved ones. 

Learn more about Elliot Cardiovascular Consultants

Dr. Tong Zhu

Tong Zhu, MD, PhD, PhD, FACC, specializes in cardiovascular disease and clinical cardiac electrophysiology in practice at Elliot Cardiovascular Consultants. 





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