one man on the phone while a second man holds his chest

You may not realize it, but there are some easy things you can do to keep your heart healthy. Heart disease is the No. 1 cause of death for men and women in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). It’s important for us to adopt a heart-healthy lifestyle through our eating, exercise, and daily habits.

Below you’ll find some tips to keep your heart pumping strong and the warning signs you should watch for.

Learn more about 5 ways to keep your heart healthy and happy

Know your body’s numbers

It’s important that you review your cholesterol, blood pressure, blood sugar, blood fat, body mass index (BMI), and waist size. Many of these numbers naturally go up as we age and are risk factors for heart disease. However, they can also be controlled. Talk to your physician about your ideal numbers and the best ways to keep them low.

Get moving

Exercise is an important factor in heart health. Regular activity is something everyone can do. That could be parking further from the grocery store or walking around your house while you’re on the phone. Exerts encourage walking for at least 30 minutes a day and at least 150 minutes of activity each week. You can even try chair yoga or a seated exercise bike to get your body moving in low-impact ways.

Stick to a heart-healthy diet

A heart-healthy diet includes choosing low-calorie foods with lots of nutrients and eating 3 cups of vegetables a day. Add in fruits, nuts, and legumes, like beans, and minimize your intake of saturated fats, sodium, meats, and liquid calories (like soda). Check out for healthy eating plans. We also have healthy eating tips and recipes on our Good Food As Good Medicine blog.

Read more from UC Davis Health: Acid reflux symptoms and treatments to help ease your heartburn

Let go of stress

Find ways to relax every day and put your mind at east. Try yoga, meditation, walking, gardening, or whatever calms you.

Read more from UC Davis Health: Female and male hearts respond differently to stress hormone in mouse study

Learn the heart attack symptoms

Symptoms of a heart attack include:

  • chest pain or discomfort (this usually happens in the center or left side of the chest and lasts for more than a few minutes)
  • feeling weak, light-headed, or faint
  • pain or discomfort in the jaw, neck, or back
  • pain or discomfort in one or both arms or shoulders
  • shortness of breath

Learn more about heart attacks from the American Heart Association

Read more from UC Davis Health: How to tell the difference between heartburn and heart attack

Know the risk factors for a heart attack

There are several factors that contribute to your heart attack risk. These include your lifestyle, age, and family history. According to the CDC, about 50% of Americans have at least one of these key risk factors for heart disease: high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, or smoking.

Learn more about heart disease risks

Read more from UC Davis Health: What’s the difference between heart attack and cardiac arrest

Don’t wait to call 911

If you have any of the warning signs or symptoms of a heart attack call 911. Don’t ignore your symptoms, don’t delay, don’t ask a friend to drive you, and don’t drive yourself.

Learn more about the warning signs of a heart attack from the American Heart Association

Read more from UC Davis Health: Sudden cardiac arrest and heart attack – How to perform CPR and use an AED

Learn more about heart health from the UC Davis Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine Program

The UC Davis Women’s Cardiovascular Medicine Program was founded in 1994. It takes a unique approach to heart care that combines primary and specialty health services. It also aims to increase awareness of heart health and heart disease risks throughout the community.

Check out the Women's Cardiovascular Medicine Program's resources or make an appointment