From Baptist Health Care

Heart disease is a leading cause of death in the U.S. but taking some preventive measures will help keep your heart healthy. Here are five tips to keep your heart working as it should so you can enjoy all the things you love to do.

1. Learn About Heart Disease

The term “heart disease” refers to several different types of conditions that affect heart health. The most common is coronary artery disease, which may cause a heart attack. Learn if you are at risk by checking blood pressure and cholesterol levels regularly. High cholesterol can clog the arteries, which can lead to reduced blood flow, blockages or clots that could result in a heart attack.

2. Reduce the Risks

Take precautions to reduce heart disease. Smoking, eating an unhealthy diet and lack of adequate exercise can all lead to heart issues. If you smoke, find a cessation program and support group to help you quit. Eat fresh foods often and avoid labels with a long list of ingredients. Plan meals ahead of time. Waiting until the last minute to eat often leads to unhealthy choices. Exercise regularly. Go for a short, brisk walk daily. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. These simple lifestyle changes will not only boost your heart health but will strengthen your immunity and even improve your mood.

3. Visit Your Doctor

Schedule your annual exam with a primary care physician (PCP) to check blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. One key to staying well is not waiting until you are sick to see a doctor. Preventive care helps you maintain your good health and can identify health concerns before they become a serious threat.

4. Listen to Beats and Flutters

If you are experiencing irregular heartbeats, fluttering or “flip flops,” talk to your primary care physician who can refer you, if needed, to a heart specialist. The irregular beat and flutter symptoms can be a sign of atrial fibrillation (also known as AFib) which is a type of cardiac arrhythmia. Other signs may include racing heartbeat, chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting and dizziness. During an arrhythmia, the heart can beat too fast, too slow or with an irregular rhythm that negatively affects blood flow. An electrophysiologist is an expert on heart rhythms and can recommend individualized treatment options.

5. Laugh More

Research shows that laughing can reduce the risk of heart disease. People who laugh and spend time with supportive people are less likely to develop heart issues or heart disease. Results from studies indicate that people who are hostile and angry have higher rates of heart disease. Benefits of laughter include lower blood pressure, reduced stress hormone levels, the release of endorphins and general well-being. After a good laugh you may feel more focused and relaxed. Laughing also increases immune response to viruses and can diffuse conflict. Build in ways to enjoy daily laughter for a healthier heart.

To learn more about heart health, visit To make an appointment with a specialist at Baptist Heart & Vascular Institute, call 850.484.6500.