Jumpstart Your Heart Action Plan

The heart is perhaps the body’s most beautiful muscle. Roughly the size of a clenched fist, this amazing machine beats approximately 100,000 times in a day and about 35 million times in a year. During an average lifetime, the human heart will beat more than 2.5 billion times. This powerful pump circulates oxygen and nutrient-rich blood to every cell in the human body. Have a heart and take good care of your ticker. Follow these heart-healthy steps to live better and longer.

Get Your Heart Rate Up

Research shows that regular physical activity and exercise can greatly reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) including heart attacks and stroke. To stay fit, the US Surgeon General recommends 30 minutes of moderate activity/5 days a week. Yet a recent Centers for Disease Control study found that almost 40% of Americans had not walked for 10 straight minutes in a week!

Make it a habit to take a brisk walk 30 minutes a day to reduce your risk of heart attack or stroke by 30%. You need to work hard enough so that you keep your heart rate within your target heart rate (THR) for at least 20 minutes or more. Your THR is 60-80% of your maximum heart rate (MHR). Calculate your rough MHR by subtracting your age from 220. Thus, if you're 55, your MHR will be 165. Seventy percent of this would be 115 beats per minute. (While exercising, stop and count your pulse for 10 seconds, then multiply by 6.) If all this math turns you off, invest in a heart rate monitor, available at most drug stores.

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