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What's One Action People Can Take to Improve Their Heart Health?

3 minute read
Graphic of the anatomy of a heart with a doctor carrying an adhesive bandage on a ladder while a doctor in a white coat is holding a clipboard and speaking to another doctor wearing scrubs with a stethoscope around their neck

In honor of American Heart Month, which takes place each February, researchers across Mass General Brigham are sharing one action that people can take to improve their heart health. These answers are based on their research and studies conducted at Mass General Brigham.

“Knowing your cholesterol numbers is key. Specifically, patients should know their ’bad’ cholesterol number, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. For people who haven’t had heart issues, they should aim for an LDL below 100 mg/dl. For patients with a history of coronary artery disease or prior heart attack, they should strive to keep their LDL below 70 mg/dl, or sometimes below 55 mg/dl.”

Christopher Cannon, MD
Preventative Cardiology Section, Cardiovascular Division
Brigham and Women’s Hospital

“Being physically active is one of the best things you can do for heart health. The American Heart Association defines eight key measures for improving and maintaining cardiovascular health; physical activity is one of these eight measures. Engaging in physical activity also benefits one’s sleep, weight, cholesterol and blood sugar levels and blood pressure. Our research shows that no activity is too little to count — every bit helps!”

I-Min Lee, MD, ScD
Epidemiologist, Division of Preventative Medicine
Brigham and Women’s Hospital

“Our research shows that, when it comes to exercise, it’s OK to be a weekend warrior. Aim to incorporate exercise into your routine, regardless of whether it's during the week or on the weekend. Strive for at least 150 minutes (about 2 and a half hours) of aerobic activity across the week; however, if you can manage more, it's even better for your heart health.”

J. Sawalla Guseh, MD
Director, Cardiovascular Performance Program, Division of Cardiology
Massachusetts General Hospital

“Research has shown that patients with pregnancies complicated by high blood pressure are at higher risk for developing high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease later in life, so a heart-healthy lifestyle and regular screening is especially important for this rising population of patients. Our group is researching how best to help patients improve their cardiovascular health following these complicated pregnancies.”

Amy Sarma, MD MHS
Co-Director of the Women's Heart Health Program and Cardiovascular Disease and Pregnancy Program, Division of Cardiology
Massachusetts General Hospital

“It's never too early for early prevention — healthy lifestyle behaviors like keeping a plant-forward Mediterranean-style diet and engaging in regular aerobic exercise to prevent development of overt cardiovascular risk factors and downstream cardiovascular disease. Indeed, cardiovascular risk compounds across the course of life, so even small improvements in metrics such as blood cholesterol and blood pressure early in life can pay off in reducing later-life cardiovascular risk.”

Michael C. Honigberg, MD, MPP
Cardiologist-Investigator, Cardiology Division
Massachusetts General Hospital

“My research is focused on understanding how inflammation affects the heart; the most prominent examples would be patients with diseases of chronic inflammation like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus. However, we also know that inflammation is an important factor in heart health even among people without these conditions. Treating this systemic inflammation can lower heart disease risk. Thus, by recognizing and addressing underlying systemic inflammation, people can improve their heart health.”

Brittany Weber, MD, PhD
Director, Cardio-Rheumatology Clinic
Associate Physician, Prevention Cardiology and Cardiovascular Imaging
Brigham and Women’s Hospital

Read more responses from MGH researchers and BWH researchers.

Learn about Mass General Brigham Heart services