A new large study  finds there are four basic lifestyle modifications you can make to protect your heart. The study, called "Low-Risk Lifestyle, Coronary Calcium, Cardiovascular Events, and Mortality: Results from the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis,” points to regular exercise, maintaining a normal weight, following a Mediterranean diet, and not smoking as ways to greatly impact your heart health and improve longevity. In fact, the nearly eight-year study found an 80 percent reduction in coronary artery disease, premature calcium buildup and chance of death from all causes with these four lifestyle modifications.
However, while all four are beneficial to your health, researchers say the most important lifestyle modification for protecting your heart is not smoking. According to their data, smokers who adopted two or more of the other lifestyle modification still had lower survival rates compared to non-smokers who did not have a healthy weight or exercise.
Start with Small Changes
If you are not compliant with all four lifestyle modifications, you aren’t alone. Of the 6,200 men and women studied, only 2 percent were. However, small changes can get you on the path to better health.
Start by walking at least 10 minutes a day to cut your risk of a heart attack  by 50 percent. Keep a water bottle by your side throughout the day to make sure you stay hydrated. Not only does being hydrated help your organs function better, water can help boost your metabolism  to help maintain a healthy weight. Take a look at your plate. The Mediterranean diet emphasizes more fruits and vegetables, while replacing butter with olive oil or canola oil. Eat fish twice a week and limit red meat to one or twice monthly. If you are a smoker, your biggest goal is to quit. Seek professional help and support through cessation classes. If you know someone who needs to quit smoking also, partner with them and make the commitment to quit . If you are a Lovelace Health Plan member, you can get help with our no-cost S.T.O.P. program .
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