January 29, 2001


Cardiac health is an important issue all yearlong, but with February designated as “Heart Month,” UCSD Healthcare cardiologists Daniel Blanchard, M.D., and Denise Hermann, M.D., offer 28 heart healthy tips for each day of the month:

  1. Exercise regularly. Thirty minutes of aerobic exercise three days a week or more can greatly reduce your risk for heart disease. It is also a great stress reliever.
  2. Learn new ways to avoid or cope effectively with stress. Tension, frustration and sadness can trigger or worsen heart abnormalities.
  3. If you smoke, QUIT. The California Smoker’s Helpline can provide free confidential smoking cessation counseling. Call them at 1-800-7-NO-BUTTS. Heart disease risk returns to that of a nonsmoker five years after kicking the habit.
  4. Add some light lifting. Resistance and weight training can build lean muscle, which helps the body’s engine (heart) run more efficiently.
  5. Maintain or reduce your weight to a healthy level, as overweight and obese people have higher risk for heart disease.
  6. Nurture friendly, caring relationships. Loneliness has been shown to have negative effects on the heart. It’s also good insurance to have a support network of friends who can watch out for you.
  7. Eat fruits and vegetables that are good natural sources of nutrients, especially those that are rich in potassium, which has been shown to lower blood pressure in people deficient in this mineral. These whole foods are also low in fat and cholesterol.
  8. Consume foods rich in folic acid and B vitamins that can help prevent heart disease by protecting blood vessels from damage.
  9. Eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber a day. Fiber helps lower blood cholesterol, and people who eat more fiber have a lower risk of heart disease.
  10. Take time to savor things that make you happy and those that make you laugh. Happiness and laughter have been shown to be some of life’s best medicine.
  11. Minimize salt intake. Too much sodium contributes to high blood pressure, a leading cause of heart failure and stroke.
  12. Visit your doctor regularly for recommended routine tests of blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Discuss any changes in your health and heart risk factors with your physician.
  13. Help your children and grandchildren develop heart healthy habits at an early age by setting a good example yourself.
  14. Know your family health history. If your mother or father had a heart attack or suffered from heart disease before they were 60 year old you are at risk for the disease and should be aware of how to control risk factors.
  15. Check for diabetes if you have a family history or are overweight. Increased blood sugar levels can be a factor in the onset of heart disease.
  16. Know your own health history by being aware of your blood pressure and cholesterol levels as well as knowing what is considered normal for these.
  17. Schedule time for some rest and relaxation. “Down time” is good for reducing stress and increasing your overall well being.
  18. Be aware of symptoms for a heart attack such as shortness of breath, chest pain, pressure, lightheadedness, nausea and others.
  19. Do not ignore warning signs or symptoms of a heart attack. Immediate treatment is crucial for recovery.
  20. Know the signs of heart failure: fatigue, activity intolerance, congestion, and edema.
  21. Always have aspirin handy. Its anti-clogging ability prevents blood clots and, with physician approval, should be taken by individuals at risk of a heart attack as well as those experiencing signs of a heart attack.
  22. Work with your doctor to eliminate heart disease risk factors by modifying your lifestyle or taking medications.
  23. If you take multiple medications or over-the-counter drugs review your regimen often with your physician and pharmacist. Make sure the combination of the medications will not have adverse effects on you heart or health.
  24. Eat only lean cuts of meat. The protein is good for the muscles which pump blood to you heart. The fat, however, you can do without.
  25. Don’t cut out fat but don’t overdo it. Some research has found that a moderate amount of unsaturated fat, such as that found in olive oil and canola oil is good for the heart. However, avoid saturated fats.
  26. Read packaged food’s nutrition labels and choose foods low in fat. Limit your fat intake to 20 to 30 percent of your total daily calories.
  27. Participate in research studies that are searching for ways to prevent and treat heart disease. UCSD School of Medicine has a variety of studies going on. For information, call 1/800-926-UCSD.
  28. Get a pet. Some studies have shown that pet owners have better blood pressure and cholesterol profiles than did non-pet owners.

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Media Contact: Kate Smith
619-543-6163  kdeely@ucsd.edu

UCSD Cardiologists Offer Free Health Screenings and Expo
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