Take Valentine's Day to heart—10 tips to better heart health

February 13, 2017 by Roxanne Moster
Dr. Sheila Sahni, an interventional cardiology fellow at the David Geffen School of Medicine, and a heart-healthy friend. Credit: UCLA

While boxes of decadent chocolate treats, celebratory champagne and romantic, high-calorie dinners may dance in your mind as a way to celebrate Valentine's Day, your heart may be pining for something else. With Valentine's Day just around the corner, it is a great time to look at the state of your heart.

Despite recent progress, remains the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States," said Dr. Sheila Sahni, interventional cardiology fellow at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and the UCLA Barbra Streisand Women's Heart Health Program. "Making -healthy lifestyle choices and taking control of your cardiovascular can help prevent or slow the progression of heart disease.

Everyday decisions are important to cardiovascular health, she added, and Valentine's Day is a good time to give yourself the gift of lifestyle changes that will benefit you through the year. Check out these tips.

10 heart-healthy tips for Valentine's Day and beyond

  1. Stay active: The key to is to keep moving and avoid being sedentary. Ideally, aim to get your heart rate up with at least 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least five days a week. However, any movement will be good for your heart so keep moving and stay active.
  2. Limit your consumption of red meat, sugar and unhealthy fats. There are plenty of foods you can eat instead to enjoy a heart-healthy diet. Add fruits and vegetables to your diet to increase your fiber consumption.
  3. Reduce your salt intake. Can't imagine your favorite foods without that added salt? Over time, however, you can re-train your taste buds to become accustomed to a lower-sodium diet, and you will start to notice subtle flavors in your foods again.
  4. Stop smoking. Smoking not only damages your lungs, it also negatively affects your heart health. Once you stop smoking, your odds of developing heart disease drops rapidly. Breaking that smoking habit is essential for your overall health.
  5. Keep your weight under control. Ask your doctor if you are overweight. Obesity increases the risk of heart attacks, heart failure and diabetes. A healthy diet with portion control and regular exercise is the best way to maintain a healthy weight.
  6. Know your cholesterol levels: High cholesterol is a risk factor for heart disease. If you have not had your cholesterol levels checked in the past year or two, get them checked now to find out if you're at risk for heart disease.
  7. Know your blood pressure: High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and heart failure. Many people with are unaware that they have this condition. There are effective treatments for hypertension in addition to lifestyle modifications of exercise and salt reduction.
  8. Know your blood sugar levels: Over time, elevated can lead to diabetes, a strong risk factor for heart disease. Ask your doctor if you are at risk. If you are pre-diabetic or have "early" diabetes, lifestyle changes can be effective.
  9. Reduce stress: Stress is a strong risk factor for , especially for women. Try meditation, yoga, or simply being silent and still for 10 minutes a day. Be mindful of stress in your life and take extra care of your heart.
  10. See your doctor regularly. Regular medical follow-up is one of the best ways to prevent cardiovascular disease. Studies show that individuals who stop their cardiovascular medications are at higher risk for heart attacks, strokes, and reduced survival.

The American Heart Association has set up "Healthy for Good" online support and information resource to help you to eat well, stay active and be healthy. Commit to nurturing your heart this Valentine's Day.

Explore further: Frequently asked questions about heart disease

Related Stories

Frequently asked questions about heart disease

February 2, 2017
As American Heart Month kicks off, doctors at Baylor College of Medicine have answers to some commonly asked questions to help jump starting your path to a healthy heart.

Too many Americans have high blood pressure, doctors warn

February 7, 2017
(HealthDay)—A group of family physicians warns that too many Americans struggle with high blood pressure.

Know your heart's numbers

February 7, 2017
(HealthDay)—More than two-thirds of Americans fret about heart disease, but few know the specific information that can help them boost their heart health, a new survey finds.

Seven steps toward a healthier heart

February 19, 2016
(HealthDay)—Heart disease is the leading cause of death for U.S. adults, but a healthy lifestyle can reduce that risk, a heart expert says.

Know the foods that protect against cardiovascular disease

February 8, 2017
February is American Heart Month, and it is an important time to be informed on the most beneficial foods and nutrients to maintain a heart-healthy diet.

Myanmar warned against unhealthy lifestyles as hypertension and high cholesterol rise

October 14, 2016
Myanmar's leading heart doctors have warned against unhealthy lifestyles as nearly one in three citizens are reported to have hypertension and half have high cholesterol. The call comes as the ASEAN Federation of Cardiology ...

Recommended for you

Some cancer therapies may provide a new way to treat high blood pressure

November 20, 2017
Drugs designed to halt cancer growth may offer a new way to control high blood pressure (hypertension), say Georgetown University Medical Center investigators. The finding could offer a real advance in hypertension treatment ...

Could this protein protect people against coronary artery disease?

November 17, 2017
The buildup of plaque in the heart's arteries is an unfortunate part of aging. But by studying the genetic makeup of people who maintain clear arteries into old age, researchers led by UNC's Jonathan Schisler, PhD, have identified ...

Raising 'good' cholesterol fails to protect against heart disease

November 16, 2017
Raising so-called 'good' cholesterol by blocking a key protein involved in its metabolism does not protect against heart disease or stroke, according to a large genetic study of 150,000 Chinese adults published in the journal ...

Popular e-cigarette liquid flavorings may change, damage heart muscle cells

November 16, 2017
Chemicals used to make some popular e-cigarette liquid flavorings—including cinnamon, clove, citrus and floral—may cause changes or damage to heart muscle cells, new research indicates.

Possible use for botulinum toxin to treat atrial fibrillation

November 16, 2017
From temporarily softening wrinkles to easing migraines, botulinum toxin has become a versatile medical remedy because of its ability to block nerve signals that can become bothersome or risky.

New model estimates odds of events that trigger sudden cardiac death

November 16, 2017
A new computational model of heart tissue allows researchers to estimate the probability of rare heartbeat irregularities that can cause sudden cardiac death. The model, developed by Mark Walker and colleagues from Johns ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

MR166
not rated yet Feb 14, 2017
"Limit your consumption of red meat, sugar and unhealthy fats."

Protein and natural non processed fats including animal fats are the foundation of a healthy diet. Want to die quickly from diabetes and or heart disease, just replace meats and fats with generous servings of bread, pasta, rice, milled grains and potatoes. It is no coincidence that the diabetes and heart health crisis coincided with the creation of the US government's food pyramid. Turn the pyramid upside down and you have a healthy diet.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.