How much should I weigh?

Talk to your family doctor about your ideal weight, because every person is different. If you’re overweight, the extra pounds put extra stress on your heart. Losing weight can help your heart stay healthy. Remember that losing just 10% of your body weight will reduce your risks for diabetes and heart disease.

Exercise

Exercise makes your heart stronger. This helps it pump more blood with each heartbeat. This delivers more oxygen to your body. With more oxygen, your body functions more efficiently.

Exercise can also lower blood pressure. It reduces your risk of heart disease and reduces levels of LDL (“bad” cholesterol). Bad cholesterol can clog the arteries and can cause a heart attack. At the same time, exercise can raise levels of HDL (“good” cholesterol). HDL helps protect against a heart attack by carrying fatty deposits out of the arteries.

When combined with a healthy diet, exercise can speed up weight loss. Regular exercise builds lean muscle, which burns more calories than fat. This helps you burn calories faster, even when you’re sitting still.

What’s the best type of exercise for my heart?

Aerobic exercise causes you to breathe more deeply. It makes your heart work harder to pump blood. Aerobic exercise also raises your heart rate (which burns calories). Examples of aerobic exercise include walking, jogging, running, dancing, swimming, and bicycling.

How much exercise do I need?

If you haven’t been exercising, try to work up to 30 minutes, 4 to 6 times a week. Your doctor may recommend a different exercise regimen based on your health. Alternate exercise days with rest days or days you do a very different type of exercise. This will help prevent injuries.

How will I fit exercise into my busy schedule?

There are lots of ways to raise your heart rate during your regular day. Some examples include:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Walk during a coffee break or lunch.
  • Walk to work, or park at the end of the parking lot so you have to walk farther.
  • Walk more briskly.
  • Do housework at a quicker pace and more often (for example, vacuuming every day).
  • Rake leaves, mow your lawn or do other yard work.

Things to consider

Diet and exercise are an important part of your heart health. If you don’t eat a good diet and you don’t exercise, you are at increased risk of developing health problems. These include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. These increase your risk of heart attack and stroke.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • Should I eat a special diet to keep my heart healthy?
  • What types of foods should I eat?
  • I am overweight. How can I lose weight to make my heart healthier?
  • How does exercise help my heart?
  • How much should I exercise?