Lifestyle & Home Remedies

How you live your life affects the health of your heart. Taking the following steps can help you not only prevent but also recover from a heart attack:

Don't smoke
If you smoke, the single most important thing you can do to improve your heart's health is to stop. It's very hard to stop smoking by yourself, so ask your doctor to prescribe a treatment plan to help you kick the habit.

Avoid secondhand smoke
Being around secondhand smoke can potentially trigger a heart attack, since many of the chemicals in cigarettes that can damage your arteries are also in secondhand smoke.

Check your cholesterol
Have your blood cholesterol levels checked regularly, through a blood test at your doctor's office. If "bad" cholesterol levels are undesirably high, your doctor can prescribe changes to your diet and medications to help lower the numbers and protect your cardiovascular health. How frequently you'll need your cholesterol checked depends on how high your cholesterol is. People who have high cholesterol may need more-frequent tests.

Get regular medical checkups
Some of the major risk factors for heart attack — high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes — cause no symptoms in their early stages. Your doctor can perform tests to check that you're free of these conditions. If a problem exists, you and your doctor can manage it early to prevent complications that can lead to a heart attack.

Control your blood pressure
Have your blood pressure checked every two years. Your doctor may recommend more frequent measurement if you have high blood pressure or a history of coronary artery disease.

Exercise regularly
Years ago, doctors discouraged exercise following a heart attack for fear it would cause another. But regular exercise helps improve heart muscle function following a heart attack. Exercise is now a major part of a cardiac rehabilitation program. Exercise helps prevent a heart attack by helping you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and control diabetes, elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure. Exercise doesn't have to be vigorous. For example, walking 30 minutes a day, five days a week can improve your health.

Maintain a healthy weight
Excess weight strains your heart and can contribute to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Losing weight can lower your risk of heart disease.

Eat a heart-healthy diet
Too much saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet can narrow arteries to your heart. If you've had a heart attack, limit fat and cholesterol — and salt. A diet high in salt can raise your blood pressure. Follow your doctor's and dietitian's advice on eating a heart-healthy diet. Prepare heart-healthy meals together as a family. Fish is part of a heart-healthy diet. It contains omega-3 fatty acids, which help improve blood cholesterol levels and prevent blood clots. Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables contain antioxidants — nutrients that help prevent everyday wear and tear on your coronary arteries.

Manage stress
To reduce your risk of a heart attack, reduce stress in your day-to-day activities. Rethink workaholic habits and find healthy ways to minimize or deal with stressful events in your life.

Drink alcohol in moderation
In moderation, alcohol helps raise HDL levels — the "good" cholesterol — and can have a protective effect against heart attack. Men should have no more than two drinks a day, and women should have no more than one. Excessive drinking can raise your blood pressure and triglyceride levels, increasing your risk of heart attack. Drinking more than one to two alcoholic drinks a day raises blood pressure, so cut back on your drinking if necessary. One drink is equivalent to 12 ounces (355 milliliters, or mL) of beer, 4 ounces (118 mL) of wine or 1.5 ounces (44 mL) of an 80-proof liquor.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, WebMD