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Expert Shopper Health & Wellness

Our expert's tips to keep your heart healthy and monitor blood pressure

Over half a million people die from heart disease every year in the United States, but in many cases, it's preventable. Several lifestyle choices and medical conditions may lead to heart disease. For example, excessive alcohol consumption worsens your heart disease risk. To learn more about the disease and how to avoid it, we spoke with BestReviews medical expert Dr. Michael Huynh.

In this article: Omron Gold Blood Pressure MonitorApple Watch Series 8 and "The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Beginners."

What is heart disease?

"Heart disease" is a blanket term referring to several heart conditions. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most common type of heart disease in the United States is coronary artery disease, which affects the blood flow to the heart. It's known to cause heart attacks, which can be deadly, and can restrict blood flow to the brain, increasing stroke risk.

Tips for keeping your heart healthy

Smoking worsens your risk for heart disease in several ways. It damages the cells lining the blood vessels and makes your blood stickier and more likely to clot. Additionally, it lowers good cholesterol and raises triglyceride levels.

"The number one way to reduce your heart disease risk," Huynh said, "is to stop smoking, especially tobacco."

Regular physical activity is essential as well. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity, such as walking or jogging, daily. If you have a fitness tracker, use it to ensure you get 10,000 steps each day.

Diet plays a significant role in keeping your heart healthy. Many studies have shown that the Mediterranean diet is beneficial.

"It reflects the cuisine of countries around the Mediterranean area," said Huynh. "It consists of a lot of fish, fruit, and veggies, and they usually steer clear of red meat and sweets."

Those with better diets have better outcomes with heart health. Maintaining a healthy weight is important. Body mass index determines whether your weight is a risk factor; a BMI of 19 to 25 is ideal. 

Visit your doctor regularly to screen for preventable diseases that may lead to heart disease.

Blood pressure

The ideal blood pressure for a healthy person under 65 is 120/80. As we age, our blood pressure increases; for those 65 and older, the target blood pressure is less than 130/80.

"Anything consistently over those numbers may warrant treatment with medication," said Huynh. "The top number, or systolic number, is what medical professionals focus on the most. If it's slightly over the target range, lifestyle changes may fix it. If it's 140 or more, medication may be necessary. If it's over 180, that's considered an emergency."

High blood pressure has been linked to dementia and can affect anyone, regardless of their age. Often, those with high blood pressure won't experience any symptoms, so it's essential to check your blood pressure regularly.

Using home blood pressure monitors

Your blood pressure changes throughout the day, so you must use your monitor regularly and note your results.

"Take your blood pressure at the same time every day," said Huynh. "Keep a journal of your blood pressure, and at the end of a week or two weeks, you can average it to get an idea of your actual blood pressure."

Many home blood pressure monitors store up to 100 results internally. Others connect to smartphone apps to enhance their storage capabilities. If you're planning to share a blood pressure monitor with someone else in your household, it's best to buy one with multiple user profiles. Otherwise, you may want to consider keeping track of your results in a physical journal.

Heart-healthy products our expert recommends

Omron Gold Blood Pressure Monitor

This accurate blood pressure monitor can store up to 120 readings. Its Bluetooth capabilities let you connect it with Alexa-enabled devices for unlimited memory. Many reviewers said it was easy to set up and use.

Sold by Amazon

Welch Allyn Home 1500 Series Blood Pressure Monitor

The companion app lets you share your readings with family members and doctors. It's comfortable, and its operation is straightforward. It's a basic model at an affordable price.

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Apple Watch Series 8

According to Huynh, "The Apple watch is a great constant heart rate monitor that can also provide rhythm monitoring if it detects an abnormal rhythm known as an arrhythmia." It's available in multiple sizes and colors.

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KardiaMobile Personal EKG Monitor

This straightforward device lets you get quick EKG readings on your smartphone. It's compact and accurate. The optional subscription gives you access to more features, such as storing your results.

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Garmin Vivosmart 5

This is comfortable and keeps track of your sleep quality, heart health, hydration and more. You can use it to count your steps, ensuring you reach your daily activity goals. 

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Pulse Oximeter Fingertip

This compact pulse monitor is small enough to fit in your pocket. It provides fast, accurate readings. It comes with a lanyard and an easy-to-understand manual.

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"The Mediterranean Diet Cookbook for Beginners"

This is available in Kindle, paperback and spiral-bound editions. It includes 100 Mediterranean diet recipes. Many reviewers said the recipes were surprisingly easy.

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Clever Fox Food Journal Pro

This comes with stickers and bookmarks to help keep your health information organized. It helps you track your goals, meals and measurements. It comes in 10 colors, including pink, gray and aquamarine.

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GE Smart Scale

This lets you track your BMI, weight, muscle mass and more. It has a companion app that makes it easier to track your progress. It's compatible with Fitbit, Google Fit and Apple Health.

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Mackie Food and Nutrition Scale

Its thin design makes it easy to store. You can use it to track the protein, fat and sodium count of over 100 popular foods.

Sold by Amazon

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Cody Stewart writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.

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