Don’t wait until there’s a health problem to turn your health around, says Kevin J. McHale, DO, noninvasive cardiologist, PinnacleHealth CardioVascular Institute. Build heart-healthy habits now, keeping these tips in mind.

  1. Consume less red meat and dairy. These animal protein sources contain high levels of saturated fat. If you consume them regularly, consider cutting back. Saturated fats increase your risk for heart disease.
    Eat nutritious foods. Fill your plate with fruits and vegetables, lean protein, and healthy grains. Limit your intake of processed foods, which are frequently high in sodium.
  2. Adopt a low-stress lifestyle. Set aside time each day to exercise and/or meditate. Both are better at alleviating stress than sitting in front of the television.
  3. Make sleep a priority. Sleep seven to eight hours a night to lower your risk for heart disease.
  4. Quit tobacco, and drink in moderation. Alcohol and tobacco can damage your heart. If you choose to consume alcohol, drink moderately: Women, consume no more than one drink per day; men, no more than two.
  5. Stay active. Make sure to fit at least 30 minutes of physical activity into every day.
  6. Walk often. Walking can help lower many cardiac disease risks factors, including high blood pressure, cholesterol and diabetes.
  7. Maintain a healthy weight. Stay within the normal 18.5–24.9 body mass index (BMI) to lower your risk for coronary heart disease.
  8. Know your numbers. Visit your doctor annually so you know your body mass index and blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
  9. See the big picture. “It’s easy to get fixated on one specific aspect of heart health, but if you do that, you could miss seeing your heart health in its entirety,” Dr. McHale says. “For instance, just because you don’t have a family history of heart disease, it’s still important to consider other risk factors, such as dietary habits.”
  10. Pay attention to your body. If you stay physically active, you are more likely to notice unusual physical symptoms indicating a heart concern, like getting easily winded while taking your daily walk.
  11. Build a relationship with a cardiologist. “If you have concerns about your blood pressure or cholesterol, see a cardiologist,” Dr. McHale says. “We work with patients to help them manage heart disease risks and minimize their chances of having heart problems.”

Join us during heart month for a variety of free seminars on how to improve your heart health. Visit us online at