6 Ways to Take Control of Your Heart Health

These simple steps will keep cardiovascular diseases at bay.

The following content is created in partnership with Yale New Haven Health. It does not reflect the work or opinions of NBC Connecticut's editorial staff. Click here to learn more about Yale New Haven Health.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. But even if there's a history of heart disease in your family, you still can reduce your risk with these simple actions and easy lifestyle modifications.

1. Laugh more, stress less
Emotions like anger and anxiety are associated with higher rates of heart disease but happiness and humor can help you stay healthy. Laughter increases blood flow, decreases stress hormones and boosts the immune system, so make humor a regular part of your life by looking on the lighter side and spending quality time with people who bring you joy.

2. Eat smart
A heart-healthy diet can help you maintain optimal levels of body weight, cholesterol, blood pressure and triglycerides. Guidelines include:

  • Avoid saturated fats from processed products. Substitute unsaturated fats from plant oils, nuts, fruits and vegetables.
  • Reduce your processed sugar intake by using sweet vegetables—pumpkin, carrots, beets—or fresh dehydrated fruit—apples, bananas, figs and pears—to add sweetness to salads, stews, sauces and syrups.
  • Focus on whole grains, lean protein and colorful, antioxidant-rich fruits like cranberries, strawberries and blueberries.
  • Salt is sometimes called "the silent killer" because it can raise blood pressure and increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Use herbs and spices like basil, parsley, red pepper and cayenne for flavor without the negative effects.

3. Stay active
A sedentary lifestyle is one of the main risk factors for coronary heart disease. In contrast, 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of intense exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight, prevent arteriosclerosis and reduce cholesterol and blood sugar. Get up and move around throughout the day to avoid staying seated for long periods of time, and carve out dedicated time for activities like swimming, speed walking, biking or running.

4. Get your ZZZZZs
Getting less than six hours of sleep per night can put you at higher risk of hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke. Make it a priority to get seven to nine hours of continuous slumber every night—naps don't count.

5. Stay away from smoking
Traditional cigarettes are a direct cause of cardiovascular disease, and smoke from e-cigarettes can contain nicotine and harmful substances. If you smoke, quit. If you don't, you should still stay away from secondhand smoke, which can increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

6. Get an annual heart screening
Regular health exams and tests are an essential tool for the early detection and treatment of cardiovascular disease. As one of the nation's leading providers of heart and vascular health services, Yale New Haven Health Heart and Vascular Center can help you stay on track with preventive care and support you with the most advanced technology and facilities if treatment is necessary. Click here to learn more.

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