Woman Jogging on Trail in Forest
 
Living with a heart condition is about more than just having a pacemaker and taking possibly medication. If you have heart disease, making some simple lifestyle changes can help you take charge of your heart health and live a more active life.
 

Keep a Healthy Weight

One way to help reduce your risk of heart disease is to maintain a healthy weight. You can calculate your body mass index (BMI) to find out if you’re at a healthy weight.

Calculate Your BMI

You can also measure your waist to help see if you’re at a healthy weight. You may be overweight if you're a woman whose waistline is more than 35 inches or a man whose waistline is more than 40 inches.

How to Measure Your Waist

  • Stand and wrap a tape measure around your stomach, midway between your hip bones and the bottom of your ribs.
  • Keep the tape snug around your waist, without compressing your skin.
  • Take the measurement after breathing out.

Your BMI and waist circumference can be helpful to gauge where you’re at, but only a trained healthcare professional can assess your individual health status and risks. So be sure to ask your doctor what a healthy weight is for you.

 

Eat a Heart-Healthy Diet

Even small changes to your diet can make a big difference in your heart health. You can start with these simple steps but be sure to talk to your doctor before making any changes so you can develop a plan that’s best for you.

  • Eat more foods that have whole grains.
  • Add a variety of fruits and vegetables.
  • Cut down on sugar and salt (sodium).
  • Limit high-fat foods, like red meat, cheese and baked goods.
  • Lower the amount of bad fats in your diet, like saturated and trans fats. They are more likely to be solid at room temperature, like butter and shortening.
  • Swap bad fats for monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. These are more likely to be liquid at room temperature.
 

Be More Active

Even if you can’t fit in regular workouts, try making activity a part of your daily life. By starting small, you’ll slowly build up your activity level, which may help whittle your waistline and enhance your heart health.

Tips for Adding More Activity to Your Day

  • Take several breaks throughout the day to stretch and walk.
  • Do your regular household chores at a brisker pace.
  • Park farther away from the door when running errands or get off the bus at an earlier stop to walk more.
  • Take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator.
  • Plan more active entertainment. For example, go bowling or bike riding instead of seeing a movie.
  • Take the stairs.
  • Plan more active entertainment. For example, go bowling or bike riding instead of seeing a movie.
  • Go for a walk with friends or family after dinner.

Be sure to talk to your doctor before you start or return to any kind of exercise.

 

Kick Your Smoking Habit

Smoking damages your heart and blood vessels. It increases the risk of heart disease and a stroke by two to four times.1 It also decreases HDL (good) cholesterol, increases the tendency for blood to clot and reduces your ability to exercise. The good news is that the damage is repaired quickly for most smokers who quit, even if you’ve smoked for a long time.
 

Reduce Stress

Having stress from time to time is a normal part of life. However, unmanaged stress can affect your overall health and have a negative impact on your heart by:2

  • Increasing your heart rate
  • Raising your blood pressure
  • Causing irregular heart rhythms
  • Raising your cholesterol levels
  • Damaging your arteries
  • Causing coronary artery disease (atherosclerosis)
  • Weakening your immune system

In addition, many people turn to unhealthy habits to cope with stress, like smoking, drinking too much alcohol and overeating. All of which may put you at higher risk for a stroke and heart disease.

Simple Ways to Reduce Stress

  • Laugh a Little. Research shows that laughter may help reduce stress, lower blood pressure, increase muscle relaxation and boost your immune system.3 So make it a point to add laughter to your day—whether that means meeting your funny friend for lunch, watching silly animal videos or doing anything else that tickles your funny bone.
  • Take Time to Relax. From meditation to deep breathing exercises, there are a number of techniques to help relax your mind. Find what works best for you and stick with it.
  • Keep a Stress Diary. Taking note of the things that cause you stress can help you identify stressors—and find ways to avoid them.
 

Resources and Support

 

We're Here to Help

Our patient support team is happy to help answer all your questions about living with your device.

Phone: (866) 484-3268
Hours: M-F 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. Central

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Individual symptoms, situations, and circumstances may vary. Please consult your physician or qualified health provider regarding your condition and appropriate medical treatment. The information provided is not intended to be used for medical diagnosis or treatment or as a substitute for professional medical advice.

SOURCES

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Health Effects of Cigarette Smoking. https://www.cdc.gov/tobacco/data_statistics/fact_sheets/health_effects/effects_cig_smoking/. Accessed October 20, 2016.
  2. Cleveland Clinic. Stress and Heart Disease. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/heart/prevention/emotional-health/stress-relaxation/stress-management-your-heart. Accessed October 20, 2016.
  3. Bennett MP, Zeller JM, Rosenberg L, McCann J. The effect of stress of mirthful laughter modifies natural killer cell activity. Altern Ther Health Med. 2003 Mar-Apr;9(2):38-45.
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