Health Notes

7 Easy Ways to Improve Your Heart Health

by Katina Granger on February 16, 2016

How much do you know about keeping a healthy heart? Diet, exercise, blood pressure, cholesterol – it can all become a blur when you’re talking about keeping that big muscle in your chest pumping hard and strong.

“It’s important for anyone who has had a heart attack – and even those who have not – to take the steps necessary to prevent a future heart attack,” said Dr. Carey Ertz, a family medicine provider at Methodist Physicians Clinic in Millard.

So what are those steps? Here are the seven best steps you can take to improve your heart health:

1. Control your blood pressure.
Elevated blood pressure is also known as hypertension, and studies show those who have hypertension often suffer from heart attack or stroke. Blood pressure is determined both by the amount of blood your heart pumps and the amount of resistance to blood flow in your arteries. The more blood your heart pumps and the narrower your arteries, the higher your blood pressure.

“When we take your blood pressure we like to see the top number, the force your heart produces as it squeezes, at 120 or better,” said Dr. Harold Huff, a family medicine provider at Methodist Physicians Clinic HealthWest. “We like the bottom number, the resting pressure your heart has to push against, at 80 or better. The lower we are able to keep those pressures, the better off your heart is going to be as far as risk for heart attacks and strokes.”

2. Keep diabetes under control.
It’s a fact. Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes. Keeping your glucose levels under control can greatly decrease your heart attack risk.

Diabetes is the inability of your body to put the sugar you eat where it needs to be,” said Dr. Bridgett Wilson, a family medicine provider at Methodist Physicians Clinic in Papillion. “Instead of being sent to the muscles where it is needed, it stays high in the blood and causes all kinds of trouble. It can effect blood flow and circulation, eventually impacting large organs including the heart.”

Need help managing your diabetes? A Methodist dietitian offers this help right at your fingertips!

3. Watch your cholesterol.
There are two types of cholesterol: “good” and “bad.” Too much bad cholesterol (LDL) can cause plaque to form in your arteries, making it harder for your heart to circulate blood. The good cholesterol (HDL) helps remove the bad and acts as a type of cleaner for your artery walls. You need a good balance of both to reduce your risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack or stroke. Ask your doctor to check your cholesterol so you can talk about ways to lower your risk.

“The basic treatment focuses on lifestyle measures,” Dr. Paul Mueller, a family medicine provider at Methodist Physicians Clinic in Papillion. “Watch your diet and exercise. Exercise can raise HDL levels and improve your cholesterol. There are also medications we utilize to help treat high cholesterol.”

Carey Ertz, family medicine Millard
Carey Ertz, DO
Dr. Harold Huff, Methodist family medicine HealthWest
Harold Huff, MD
Dr. Bridgett Wilson, Methodist family medicine Papillion
Bridgett Wilson, MD
Dr. Paul Mueller, Methodist family medicine Papillion
Paul Mueller, MD
Dr. Katrena Lacey
Katrena Lacey, MD

4. Take time to exercise.
Yes, you have to get that heart pumping, but you don’t need to spend hours at the gym. Spend 30 minutes a day doing some sort of moderate physical activity. That can mean just going for a brisk walk or a bike ride.

“Exercise not only helps you lose weight, it also keeps your heart healthy and strong,” said Dr. Ertz.

Need some ideas on ways you can exercise? Check out these great tips and easy-to-follow videos from our Methodist Physicians Clinic Physical Therapy team!

5. Maintain a healthy diet.
Simply eating the right foods can help make a huge difference for your heart. Healthy foods fuel our body and help us fight off diseases – including those that put our heart at risk. So what foods are “superfoods” for your heart? Eat plenty of fruit, veggies, low-fat dairy, whole grains and lean meats (including fish).

Need a guide on what you need in your diet? Here’s more on building a healthy food home.

6. Lose weight.
If you are obese, a healthier heart is as little as five or 10 pounds away. Even just losing that little amount of weight can greatly reduce your heart attack risk.

“It doesn’t have to feel like a huge mountain you have to climb, you just have to take a little step forward,” said Dr. Katrena Lacey, an internal medicine provider and pediatrician at Methodist Physicians Clinic in Gretna. “Utilize food nutrition labels to actually look at what is in your food – fats, calories and added sugars – so you can make educated choices and changes, and take a step in the right direction for a healthier lifestyle and a healthier heart.”

7. Quit smoking. NOW.
Smoking puts your health at risk in so many ways, your heart is just one of them. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you smoke, quit. For help, you can turn to the Methodist QuitSmart® Smoking Cessation Program by calling (402) 354-5237.


Katina Granger is a blogger and PR/Social Media Specialist for Methodist Health System.
Contact Katina at
Katina Granger


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