Sometimes there seems to be no end to the media's advice for men about heart health. The ever-expanding menu of foods that are good for the heart and bad for it…the must-do exercise routines…the latest dietary supplement guaranteed to keep the ticker strong.
But what are the truly essential steps for heart health, whether a man has already had a heart attack or wants to do everything he can to reduce his chances of having one? In the July 2013 issue of the Harvard Men's Health Watch, Dr. Deepak L. Bhatt, director of the Integrated Interventional Cardiovascular Program at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital, identifies several must-do steps men need to take. They go beyond taking a cholesterol-lowering statin or a daily baby aspirin.
"Being on aspirin and a statin won't make you bulletproof," Dr. Bhatt says. "You still could have another heart attack if you are not doing other things that are important." Here is what he suggests:
Be as physically active as possible. Any amount of exercise is better than none or very little.
Get a yearly flu shot. In people with heart disease, a flu infection can increase heart attack risk.
Drink alcohol in moderation. A standard drink or two of alcohol per day is not likely to cause harm and may help—as long as it isn't interacting in harmful ways with a heart medication.
Lose weight if needed. Getting rid of that spare tire can further reduce cardiac risk, in addition to the effects of medications, exercise, and good nutrition.
Sign up for cardiac rehabilitation. For men diagnosed with heart disease, cardiac rehab provides supervised exercise, nutrition counseling, training in stress reduction, and positive social support—all crucial to regaining health after a cardiovascular crisis.
Read the full-length article: "A heart attack prevention checklist"