Advances in medical health have lengthened Americans’ life expectancy, but they haven’t changed the fact that heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States. Fortunately, you can cut your risk of having a heart attack by 80% if you implement heart-healthy lifestyle and diet changes. Follow our suggestions below to have a happy heart and a longer life.

  1. Quit Smoking

Most people associate cigarette smoking with lung cancer, but smoking negatively affects most of your body’s organs, especially your heart. Cigarette smoke raises your blood pressure, makes your blood more likely to clot, and causes atherosclerosis, a condition where fat builds up in your arteries. These factors combined can increase your risk of developing coronary heart disease, which leads to heart attacks.

  1. Avoid High-Cholesterol Foods

The higher your cholesterol, the higher your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. Lower your cholesterol levels by cutting out foods high in saturated fat, including butter and bacon. You should also avoid any foods with trans fats, such as hydrogenated oils.

While you might not need to cut out red meat entirely, you should limit your consumption of bacon, corned beef, hot dogs, steaks, hamburgers, and other meats with high fat concentrations.

  1. Exercise Regularly

Moderate to intense exercise strengthens your heart, which lowers your risk of heart disease. If possible, aim to be active every day—even walking 30 minutes a day can improve your heart’s health.

For longer-lasting results, try moderate exercise that increases your heart rate for 40 minutes 3 to 4 times a week. Biking, swimming, running, kickboxing, and jogging all get your heart rate up and help you maintain a healthy weight, which also lowers your risk of heart disease.

  1. Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Excessive drinking causes several negative effects, including high blood pressure, which in turn increases your risk of heart attacks. Limit your alcohol consumption to 1 drink per day for women, or 2 drinks per day for men. A drink is defined as 12 fluid ounces of beer, 1 1/2 fluid ounces of 80-proof spirits, or 5 fluid ounces of wine. Limiting drinking will also reduce your risk of high-risk behaviors like driving under the influence. Drunk driving endangers not only your own health, but the lives of others, and can come with severe criminal penalties (learn more at While you may not want to stop drinking altogether, limiting your intake goes a long way towards protecting both your heart and the safety of others.

  1. Eat Heart-Healthy Food

Consuming foods that are low in cholesterol, sugars, sodium, and fat can improve your heart health. Choose nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish and poultry, and nuts.

  1. De-Stress

The more stress you have in your life, the more strain you put on your heart. Learn healthy ways to manage your stress, like meditation and yoga practices. Regular exercise can also help you deal with life’s daily stresses. If stress ever feels overwhelming, talk to a counselor or therapist.

With these six diet and lifestyle changes in mind, you can work towards a longer life and a healthier heart.

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