A Beginners Guide to Heart Health
Article by Rick Popowitz

Your heart: It sure works hard for you. It’s a blood-pumping machine that needs daily TLC to help you live a long, healthy life. Show your heart some love by learning how to keep it in tip-top shape.

Signs of a heart attack

The American Heart Association lists the following signs of a heart attack on its website here:


  • Chest discomfort
  • Discomfort in other upper-body areas, such as arms, neck, jaw, stomach or back
  • Shortness of breath
  • Other signs such as nausea, light headedness or breaking into cold sweat

According to the American Heart Association: “Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. It can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain.”

While some heart attacks are instantly recognizable, others start slowly with mild chest discomfort. Minutes matter with heart attacks, so it’s important to call 9-1-1 immediately if you are experiencing the above symptoms.


Risk factors for coronary heart disease

What is coronary heart disease (CHD)? Coronary heart disease, sometimes called coronary artery disease, is a term for the buildup of plaque on the coronary arteries. This plaque restricts the flow of blood to the heart, can cause blockages, and can lead to a heart attack.

There are some CHD risk factors you can’t change, like gender, age and family history. Most people who die of coronary heart disease are 65 years or older, says the American Heart Association. Men are more likely to have a heart attack than women, and having a family history of heart disease raises the chances that you’ll have it, too.

However, there are also some modifiable risks for heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. They include:


  • Smoking
  • Having high blood pressure
  • Having high blood cholesterol
  • Being physically inactive
  • Being overweight or obese
  • Eating an unhealthy diet
  • Having diabetes
  • Drinking too much alcohol
  • Being stressed


    6 lifestyle changes to make for a healthier heart

    The U.S. government’s National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute talks about heart attack prevention and  heart-healthy lifestyle changes you can make on its website. These changes include:

    • Stop smoking and reduce your exposure to second-hand smoke.
    • Get moving. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise a week.
    • Maintain a healthy weight, losing weight if necessary.
    • Manage your blood pressure, blood sugar and blood cholesterol.
    • Eat a balanced, heart-healthy diet.
    • Manage stress in your life.

    8 ways to make your diet heart-savvy

    The American Heart Association gives tips for heart-healthy eating here on its website. Among its suggestions are:

    • Choose fiber-rich whole grains over refined grains such as white bread.
    • Eat fat-free and low-fat dairy products.
    • Consume fish twice a week. In particular, fish like salmon, trout and herring are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, says the American Heart Association.
    • Fill up on colorful vegetables and choose them over higher-calorie foods.
    • Drink in moderation if you drink alcohol. The American Heart Association says to limit consumption to one drink a day for women, and two drinks a day for men.
    • Swap saturated and trans fats (which often come from “partially hydrogenated oils”) for healthier monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats.
    • Avoid added sugars and sodium.
    • Choose lean cuts of poultry and fish and prepare them in a healthy manner.

    A better burn: 10 common exercises to improve your heart health

    Physical activity helps you achieve a healthy weight and maintain heart health. Many experts recommend 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity per week for cardiovascular health.

    Different activities burn different amounts of calories in an hour. If you want to maximize your weight loss, the Mayo Clinic shows the different amount of calories a 160-pound person would burn in one hour doing these common activities. You can see the full list here.


    • Aerobics, high impact 533
    • Bicycling, < 10 mph, leisure 292
    • Golfing, carrying clubs 314
    • Hiking 438
    • Racquetball 511
    • Resistance (weight) training 365
    • Running, 5 mph 606
    • Swimming laps, light or moderate 423
    • Walking, 2 mph 204
    • Yoga, hatha 183
    About the Authors
    • Rick Popowitz

      Rick Popowitz, founder and President/CEO of Biocentric Health. For the past 25 years he's been actively interested in alternative health and nutrition.