Use Exercise as Medicine, and See How This Free Therapy Works as Well as Most Medications

You can significantly reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, including your cholesterol level and blood pressure, by making small lifestyle changes, according to experts at National Jewish Health in Denver. Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death and disability in the United States. Each year, heart disease kills more Americans than cancer.

National Jewish Health Cardiologist Andrew Freeman, MD, offers these tips to help you improve your heart health:


Quit Smoking

Breaking free from smoking is the single most important lifestyle change you can make to reduce your risk of heart attack, stroke and lung cancer. In addition, food will taste better, and you will feel better.


Watch Your Salt

Did you know most Americans get enough salt by the time they are done with breakfast? Eating no more than 2000 mg of sodium each day can help decrease blood pressure. Two slices of bread have up to 500 mg, and one bowl of most breakfast cereals has 600 mg of sodium. The latest guidelines recommend no more than 1500 mg of salt each day for many folks with high blood pressure and other diagnoses. Controlling your salt intake will help keep your blood pressure down.


Extra Steps Add Up

Quit circling the parking lot looking for that spot close to the door. Park farther away, and take the extra steps. Take the stairs rather than the elevator. If you can’t make it all the way to the floor you need, do as many flights as you can before jumping on the elevator. Aim for 10,000 steps a day.


Get Your 150

Brisk walking for 150 minutes a week (22 minutes a day for five days) improves heart health. Exercise truly is your best medicine. Exercise has been shown to reduce cardiovascular disease (i.e., heart attack, stroke, hypertension) and also helps with quitting smoking, stress and mood, bone density and cognitive abilities.

Choose The Vegetarian Option

You don’t have to jump straight into a strict vegetarian or vegan diet. Resolve to have a Meatless Monday (or perhaps even more than one day). At lunch, a simple step is to substitute peanut butter and fruit preserves sandwiches for deli meat. Going vegetarian even once a week can improve your cholesterol, blood pressure and salt intake. In light of the latest dietary guidelines and World Health Organization suggestions, eating many more fruits, vegetables and whole grains is not only good for cardiac health, but can also significantly reduce cancer risk! Try some of our healthy recipes.


Time Your Medication

Taking your cholesterol medication at night can help it be more effective. The enzymes in your liver that make cholesterol are most active at night, so taking your medication before bed gives you the highest blood levels at the most important time.


Work on Mindfulness

Yes, the mind-body connection is proven to affect cardiovascular health. Using deep breathing, meditation, mindfulness, prayer or others ways to de-stress. Find ways to connect and help others. Life is stressful, but facing and neutralizing those stressors can do wonders for one’s health.


This information has been approved by Andrew M. Freeman, MD, FACC, FACP (December 2018).