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7 Easy Steps to Ideal Heart Health

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We have lots of important organs, but the heart is one of the most essential. Heart problems threaten our ability to stay alive. Every 36 seconds, one person will die of cardiovascular disease in the United States. Heart disease is also the leading cause of death for both men and women.

Medical technology has come a long way, and we have more tools than ever to treat an existing heart problem. However, as a physician, I believe the best way to treat heart disease is to prevent it. I emphasize to all of my patients the advantages of following the heart health guidelines from the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association has created a seven-step list that we can all follow to lead longer, more productive lives. This official list is called Life’s Simple 7 and is a practical solution to keeping our hearts in tip-top shape so we can enjoy all that life has to offer.

Life’s Simple 7 are:

  1. Increasing activity level.
  2. Quitting smoking.
  3. Eating better.
  4. Reducing blood sugar.
  5. Maintaining a healthy weight.
  6. Controlling cholesterol.
  7. Managing blood pressure.

Ideal cardiovascular health can be challenging to achieve because our genetic history plays a vital role in several health factors. These guidelines suggest simple steps we can all take to reduce our risk of developing heart disease and come as close to ideal heart health as possible.

From changing our diet and lifestyle to exercising more and maintaining a healthy weight, we can improve our chances of preventing a significant heart event. In some cases, we may even move from poor and intermediate health to excellent health without having to resort to costly surgery or expensive medication. The most exciting thing to me is that all of these steps are intrinsically related to one another. If you begin to succeed in one area, your efforts will very likely be rewarded in others. 

Take the first steps toward a healthy heart. Schedule an appointment with a cardiologist at

Referring back to the list, you may notice that a few of the steps are related to your diet. By eating better, we will also be able to at least partially manage our blood pressure, reduce our blood sugar levels, control our cholesterol and maintain a healthy weight. 

Many Americans eat way too much red meat and salty and sugary processed foods. Eating for your heart doesn’t have to be hard or tedious, though. If you’re interested in taking the first steps toward changing your diet, have a look at this list of heart-healthy foods you can incorporate into every meal from my Ochsner colleague Molly Kimball, RD.

Adding exercise into our routine is another great way to get our blood flowing, reducing blood pressure and helping our weight loss goals. And if you are a smoker and have any heart problems whatsoever, you should make every effort possible to quit smoking. Smoking is terrible for our health and can have an outsized impact on those with heart disease. 

You can research the relationship between all of these simple steps, as well as how to accomplish them on the American Heart Association's My Life Check website. But your best resource in the battle against heart disease will be your healthcare team. 

Every day, I help people begin their journey in reaching their ideal cardiovascular health. My best piece of advice to you is that improving any of these seven areas will lead to better health. These changes really can impact your quality of life and life span.

Editor's note: This article was originally published on Sep. 23, 2014. 

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