Three ways to keep your heart healthy from Independence Blue Cross

Published April 14, 2015

Consider these odds: If you play the Powerball lottery, your chances of winning the grand prize are about 1 in 175 million. But whether you’re a woman or a man, your chances of dying from heart disease are 1 in 4. It’s a sobering thought, especially if, like me, you have a family history of heart attack and stroke.

The good news – and there is good news – is that there are simple things you can do to improve your odds when it comes to the game of life. Talking to your doctor about your heart health is an important first step, and the American Heart Association is just one trusted resource for tips to help you start the conversation. Here are some other ways you can be heart smart:

1. Calculate (and conquer) your risks.
Do you have high blood pressure? Do you have high cholesterol? Do you smoke? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you’re at increased risk for developing heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control, about half of all Americans have at least one of these three risk factors. Other risk factors include family history, diabetes, and poor diet. Use this Heart Disease Risk Calculator to get a quick assessment of your risks with easy-to-follow steps for reducing them.

2. Give your heart the nourishment it needs.
Sadly, your heart can’t live on love (or potato chips) alone. To keep it pumping properly, the American Heart Association recommends eating a balanced diet low in salt, sugar, and saturated fats, and high in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Take this list of 10 heart-healthy foods to the grocery store to help you stock up on healthy staples, like berries and quinoa (say it with me: keen-wah). Then use these basics to whip up delicious, heart-healthy meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

3. Brush your teeth (Yes, really.)
As this infographic illustrates, smoking, drinking too much alcohol, and not being physically active can all contribute to heart disease. But do you know that poor oral hygiene may also be linked? Scientists believe that bacteria that cause gum disease may travel through our bloodstream and cause blockages in our arteries, which can lead to a heart attack. Be sure to brush and floss regularly to stop bacteria in their tracks.

It’s always easier to make lifestyle changes stick if you make one small change at a time. Since I know my family history puts me at risk for developing heart disease, I’ve been cutting out sugary drinks, like soda and bottled ice tea, and drinking more water.

What’s one small thing you’re doing to help keep your ticker in tip-top shape?

Save the Date: Walking is one of the best ways to improve your heart health. Plan to join the independent Blue Cross and Blue Shield companies as we encourage everyone to get up and get moving for National Walk @ Lunch Dayâ„ on Wednesday, April 29, 2015. Taking a bike ride is also a great way to get your heart pumping. Independence Blue Cross is the proud sponsor of Indegoâ„ , Philly’s new bike share system, which launches this spring.

Editor’s Note: This article appears on IBX Insights [], the blog of Independence Blue Cross. Visit for health insurance how-to's, healthy living tips and more.

This material is intended for reference and informational purposes only and should not be used in place of advice from a doctor or a qualified healthcare professional.