Pump Up Your Heart in Five Easy Steps

Healthy Tips From the Perelman Heart Institute for February Heart Month

Jan 11, 2011


Dr. Holly Anderson

Dr. Holly Anderson

Did you know that a good night's sleep can help prevent heart disease? There are many simple ways to lower your risk.

During February, American Heart Month, Dr. Holly Andersen, director of education and outreach at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, offers some easy steps to improve heart health and overall well-being throughout the year.

Watch a heart-to-heart discussion on cardiac health with Dr. Andersen at www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kd5uuBqsS5A.

An estimated 58 million Americans are affected by heart disease, including nearly half a million women who die every year of heart disease and stroke. Yet, women continue to lag behind in their understanding of this disease.

"While we are making great strides in advancing the treatment of heart disease, we need to do more to encourage prevention and educate women about their risk factors," says Dr. Andersen. "Educating women about this disease not only helps them to improve their own health, but women are more likely to spread the message of prevention to friends and family. When you educate a woman you educate a society."

Step 1: Know your numbers. Your blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels are the most important numbers you will need to know before you begin on the path to good heart health. A normal blood pressure level is 140/85 or less, total cholesterol levels should be less than 200, and triglycerides less than 150.

Step 2: Start walking. Exercise is the fountain of youth. A simple 20- to 30-minute walk a few days a week can actually reduce the risk of premature death by more than 50 percent. Physical activity also improves sleep, reduces stress, elevates mood, reduces blood pressure, improves cholesterol, improves cognition and prevents memory loss.

Step 3: Laugh out loud. Laughter really is the best medicine. Just 15 minutes of laughter is about equivalent to 30 minutes of aerobic exercise with respect to our cardiovascular health. Laughter has also been linked to the healthy function of blood vessels, an increase of the brain hormones that improve mood, and reduction of pain and anxiety.

Step 4: Focus on your waistline, not your weight. Your waistline is a better measurement of your overall health than your weight because the amount of fat around your waistline is directly linked to high blood pressure and high cholesterol and can place you at increased risk for diabetes. Anything you can do to make your waistline smaller is definitely a step in the right direction. Liposuction doesn't count!

Step 5: Get a good night's sleep. Sleep is one of the most undervalued elements of our daily routines, but it is absolutely vital to good health. Lack of sleep increases your blood pressure, induces stress, increases your appetite and slows down your metabolism, dampens your mood and decreases your cognition.

Dr. Holly Andersen

Dr. Holly Andersen, director of education and outreach at the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell and associate professor of clinical medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College, is a leading authority on preventive cardiology. She has been selected as one of America's "Best Doctors" every year by Castle Connolly since 2001, and in 2008 she was named by the Consumers' Research Council of America as one of "America's Top Cardiologists." She has published original work on mitral valve prolapse and has presented at national and international conferences. She is a past board member of the Arthur Ashe Athletic Association and currently serves on the Board of Trustees for the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research, The President's Council of the International Women's Health Coalition, and the National Advisory Board for the Women's Sports Foundation. She lives with her husband and two children in Manhattan.

Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center

The Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute of NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center functions as a "medical town square" complete with a patient-friendly welcome center and a clinical trials enrollment center. The Institute expands upon the Hospital's cardiac care expertise and connects all cardiac services, from treating life-threatening arrhythmias to complex coronary artery disease. It focuses on translational and clinical research efforts aimed at new ways to diagnose and treat patients with heart disease. For more information, visit www.nypheart.org/perelman.

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center

NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center, located in New York City, is one of the leading academic medical centers in the world, comprising the teaching hospital NewYork-Presbyterian and Weill Cornell Medical College, the medical school of Cornell University. NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell provides state-of-the-art inpatient, ambulatory and preventive care in all areas of medicine, and is committed to excellence in patient care, education, research and community service. Weill Cornell physician-scientists have been responsible for many medical advances — including the development of the Pap test for cervical cancer; the synthesis of penicillin; the first successful embryo-biopsy pregnancy and birth in the U.S.; the first clinical trial for gene therapy for Parkinson's disease; the first indication of bone marrow's critical role in tumor growth; and, most recently, the world's first successful use of deep brain stimulation to treat a minimally conscious brain-injured patient. NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital also comprises NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center, NewYork-Presbyterian Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Westchester Division and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/The Allen Hospital. NewYork-Presbyterian is the #1 hospital in the New York metropolitan area and is consistently ranked among the best academic medical institutions in the nation, according to U.S.News & World Report. Weill Cornell Medical College is the first U.S. medical college to offer a medical degree overseas and maintains a strong global presence in Austria, Brazil, Haiti, Tanzania, Turkey and Qatar. For more information, visit www.nyp.org and www.med.cornell.edu.

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Kathleen Robinson 212-821-0560