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4 key things to reduce heart disease risk

June 3, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
High cholesterol and blood pressure are definitely risk factors for heart disease, but experts say if you really want to reduce your risk, you need to do four key things.

As a medical consultant to "Grey's Anatomy," Dr. Ismael Nuno doesn't mince words when it comes to describing heart disease.

"Have a good weight, exercise, throw away your cigarettes and eat well," said Nuno.

Nuno, a heart surgeon for 35 years, describes the four steps that can help you prevent an early death by 80 percent. A new study from Johns Hopkins researchers says these steps can also reduce your heart disease risk by nearly 40 percent. First, follow the Mediterranean style of eating. Numerous studies show it's the best heart healthy diet.

"It includes nuts, fruits and vegetables. It includes fish, a little bit of wine," said Nuno.

If you could exercise five times a week, that would be great, but Nuno knows many people are just too busy.

"If you can do it at least a couple of times a week, where you get your heart rate up above 120, and you do it for about 20 minutes or more, we're happy with that," said Nuno.

As for a healthy weight, the American Heart Association recommends maintaining a body mass index lower than 25.

And while we see a lot of drama on TV, you can see real-life dramatic health changes by doing one thing. In the study, avoiding smoking had the largest protective effect. Smokers who had two or more of the other healthy habits still had a higher death rate than non-smokers who were sedentary and obese.

"If you just stop smoking, you are still going to have better outcomes than if you smoke," said Nuno.

Nuno's overall advice: You don't have to do everything at once. Change what you can a little at time and stick to it.


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