Your heart works hard for you, so it's important that you work hard to protect it. Making smart choices, even later in life, can have big benefits for your heart. The cardiac team at University of Maryland Baltimore Washington Medical Center recommends making the following lifestyle changes to decrease your chance of developing heart disease:

Eat a Well-Rounded Diet

To get the nutrients you need, stock up on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy items, poultry, fish and nuts. Limit the amount of red meat and sugary foods and beverages. Make sure to eat appropriate portion sizes, reduce sodium intake, and if you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. For tips on eating a nutritious diet and recipes for heart healthy foods, visit Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Get Active

Aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity every day and to maintain a healthy weight, try to burn as many calories as you consume. Exercise has many benefits for your heart, such as lowering your blood pressure and cholesterol and reducing stress. Visit for recommendations for physical activity.

Know Your Numbers

protect your heartWith the help of your primary care physician, monitor your blood pressure, blood cholesterol and body weight, as they're indicators of how well your cardiovascular system is functioning. Your health care provider can help you track and trend your numbers so you can recognize if they move towards unhealthy levels and make proactive changes to your health. For tips on lowering your blood pressure and controlling your cholesterol, visit

Don't Smoke Tobacco

Smokers have a higher risk of developing atherosclerosis (the buildup of fatty substances in the arteries), among other chronic disorders. According to the American Cancer Society, smoking is responsible for nearly one in five deaths in the United States. Because cigarette smoking and tobacco use are acquired behaviors, smoking is the most preventable cause of death in our society.

As a health care provider, we are committed to creating a smoke-free environment both inside and out. The American Lung Association recommends the following tips to quit smoking:

  • Get rid of all your cigarettes, lighters and ashtrays. Wet down cigarettes so you won't dig them out of the trash.
  • Change your daily routine so you won't want to smoke from habit.
  • When craving cigarettes, remember the 4 D's: drink water, delay, deep breathing, do something else.
  • Carry gum, hard candy or toothpicks to keep your mouth busy.
  • Tell people you've quit; most people will support you and help to hold you accountable. Ask your friends, family and co-workers not to use tobacco around you.
  • Don't worry about feeling sleepy, grouchy or dizzy. These symptoms will pass.
  • Remind yourself why you're quitting. If you've tried to quit in the past, evaluate what has and has not worked.
  • Work in partnership with your health care provider and let him or her guide you through your ups and downs. Talk to your provider about medication options.
  • Eat regular meals. Sometimes people feel like smoking when they are really hungry.
  • Tell yourself you are a nonsmoker now.
  • Reward yourself for going days or weeks without smoking.

Smoking Cessation Resources

A "Get With The Guidelines: Gold Plus" award from the American Heart Association recognizing non-ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction procedures at the UM Baltimore Washington Medical Center.