30 days to a healthier heartSmall lifestyle changes can lower your risk of heart disease by as much as 83%. This week-by-week plan will help you take baby steps that can pay off big.
As one of America's top doctors, Lori Mosca, MD, MPH, PhD, leads a powerful American Heart Association panel on women's heart health and is a TV regular, often arriving on set in a tomato-red suit and heels to preach her practical, heart-smart message.
But none of that, she says, gives her an edge when it comes to protecting her own heart. "I'm a working mom and wife with a full-time job, and I help take care of an elderly parent," says Dr. Mosca, 54, director of preventive cardiology at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. "If I don't have time for lunch, I crave salty, sugary snacks, just like everyone else-and I don't always want to exercise at the end of the workday." So she practices what she preaches, tucking tangerines into her purse and wearing sneakers to work so that she can fit in some extra exercise during the day.
Baby steps? Maybe, but they have a lot of power over heart disease, which claims nearly 420,000 women's lives each year. In one Harvard Medical School study of more than 84,000 women, small lifestyle changes cut risk by up to 83%. "Simple, fun habits that work with your life make it happen," says Dr. Mosca.
That's why Prevention consulted with Dr. Mosca to develop the easiest, most pleasurable heart-health plan ever for women-and men too. You'll tackle one key area a week, zeroing in on lifestyle tweaks that matter most and feel good. In a month, Dr. Mosca says, you will see improvements and be on your way to cementing a heart-healthy lifestyle that can last a (very long) lifetime.
Before You Start
Know Your Numbers
Learn your personal heart disease risk factors. Pull out your most recent test results, call your doctor to get them, or make an appointment for testing if you haven't been checked in the past year. (While you're on the phone, get clearance for exercise if you have a chronic health condition, are pregnant, or haven't exercised regularly recently.) But don't stop there. "Know your waist size, blood sugar, and pregnancy history too," Dr. Mosca says.
If you do just one thing: Measure your middle.
In her study of more than 6,000 women, Dr. Mosca found that 90% of those whose waists were 35 inches or more had at least one major risk factor for heart disease, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure; a third had three or more. Plus, a large waist is a risk factor for diabetes, another heart threat. "Waist size forecasts heart health better than your weight or body mass index," Dr. Mosca says. "It's an indicator of dangerous fat deep in your abdomen, even if you are not overweight. Losing just an inch can improve all of your other heart-health numbers." Measure on bare skin at your belly button with a nonelastic tape measure. (Don't suck in your tummy!) Write down the number and re-check it 30 days after you start this plan.
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