10 Ways to Live Longer

Experts reveal their best advice for dodging heart disease.

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Get Tech Support and Be Flexible

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1. Get Tech Support

“I’ve had clients from age 18 to 70 use a heart rate monitor, and afterward they won’t work out without one. Technology can help you know if you’re pushing yourself too hard or should work more intensely, so you can exercise smarter. It also increases your accountability and motivation. If you’re not ready for a stand-alone gadget like a Fitbit, try a fitness app like PEAR Sports, which guides you through hundreds of workouts led by real trainers and athletes; or Stepz, which uses your phone as a pedometer, helping you set and reach a daily activity goal.”—Michelle Lovitt, Los Angeles–based exercise physiologist

2. Be Flexible

“Cardio workouts—like cycling and brisk walking—aren’t the only good moves for your heart. Mobility exercises may be key as well. Poor flexibility is associated with stiffening of the arteries, making it harder for the heart to pump blood through your body. It’s pretty easy to incorporate stretching into your daily routine. When I’m standing, I do side bends from my waist; when I’m sitting, I do spinal twists.”—Biomechanist Katy Bowman, author of Movement Matters

Flex Appeal

For spinal twists, sit up tall in a chair and cross your right ankle over your left thigh. Place your left hand on your right thigh and rotate your torso to the right; hold for 10 seconds, then repeat on opposite side with right hand on left thigh.

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Look Skin-Deep and Try the Buddy System

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3. Look Skin-Deep

“The outside of your body can provide a window to the inside. My research found that people with psoriasis, especially those with more severe disease, are more likely to develop heart disease. That may also be true for conditions such as eczema and rosacea, but more research is necessary before recommendations can be made. The same process that causes skin inflammation in psoriasis may also cause hardening of the arteries. If you have more severe psoriasis, be sure your primary care doctor is aware of it and that blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol screenings are up-to-date.”—Dermatologist Joel M. Gelfand, MD, director of the psoriasis and phototherapy treatment center at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia

4. Try the Buddy System

“Positive relationships work both ways to benefit your heart: They decrease stress, which is a risk factor for disease, and increase happiness, which is also associated with better health. If your father had a heart attack or your mother suffers from hypertension, don’t just load up on fruits and veggies or exercise more—improve your social network too. Many aspects of your lifestyle, including friendships, influence how susceptible your genes are to disease.”—Leon Henderson-MacLennan, MD, board-certified internist at the California Health and Longevity Institute in Westlake Village

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Don't Wait and See and Have an Exit Plan

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5. Don’t Wait and See

“It’s frustrating when I get a patient who delayed coming to the ER. The medicines we administer for a stroke have to be started within four hours of your symptoms starting; and in the case of a heart attack, we’re often chasing our tails to make up for lost time. If you sense something is wrong—even a non-specific thing like dizziness or excessive sweating—it probably is. Don’t ignore your symptoms: Call 911.”—Alicia Kurtz, MD, chief resident in emergency medicine at the University of California San Francisco in Fresno, and president of the Emergency Medicine Residents’ Association

6. Have an Exit Plan

“After you call 911, stay on the line and try to prepare for the paramedics’ arrival: Unlock your front door, contain your pets in a different room, then sit or lie down while loosening any restrictive clothing—like tight jeans. Keep your cell phone—which should have your medical and insurance information and emergency contacts in it—with you if possible. If you haven’t called a friend or family member, let the paramedics know who you want contacted. This is especially important when you have young children because if there’s no one for them to stay with, we will need to leave them with law enforcement.”—Charlene Cobb, emergency medical technician and community outreach coordinator for Sunstar Paramedics in Largo, FL 

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Pass on Perfection and Embrace the Unrefined

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7. Pass on Perfection

“Many of my patients believe they have to do everything right—from losing weight to taking up running—to improve their health. But even a single lifestyle change can greatly improve your cardiovascular health. For example, if you just decrease the amount of sodium in your diet you’ll significantly reduce your systolic blood pressure, which lowers your chance of having heart disease or a stroke.”—Mary Ann Bauman, MD, medical director, women’s health and community relations, for Integris Health in Oklahoma City

8. Embrace the Unrefined

“All carbs are not created equal: Some can actually improve your health. A recent study review found that people who ate the most whole grains had a 16% to 22% lower risk of heart disease. To reap the benefits, choose whole-grain breads over white, and incorporate brown rice, quinoa and farro into your meals.”—Kelly Toups, RD, LDN, staff dietitian for Oldways, a nonprofit food and nutrition education organization

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Learn from History and Give It a Rest

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9. Learn from History

“Most types of heart disease—like heart attacks, aneurysms and abnormal heartbeats—have a hereditary component. A simple genetic test from a blood or saliva sample will reveal DNA changes that predispose you to these diseases. Knowing the results can make you more vigilant about getting help when you have symptoms. In the case of serious conditions, early interventions like medication or even an internal defibrillator may save your life.”—Amy Sturm, licensed genetic counselor and associate professor at The Ohio State University

10. Give It a Rest

“Sleep is my personal health challenge. As a full-time working mom, there are just never enough hours in the day! But a lack of shut-eye can lead to chronic increases in stress hormones and changes in your metabolism, which are linked to hypertension. Seven seems to be the magic number: Getting fewer hours than that nightly significantly increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and strokes. I’m trying to improve my sleep by following a nighttime routine and going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it for my health.”—Suzanne Steinbaum, DO, director of women’s heart health at Northwell Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City and a spokeswoman for the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women movement