7 Worst Heart Health Mistakes — and How You Can Avoid Them

New research reveals insight about American heart health

7 Worst Heart Health Mistakes — and How You Can Avoid Them

How much do you know about heart health? Turns out, we all could probably learn a few things about this amazing organ, the heart, and how to keep it, and our bodies strong.

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Cleveland Clinic recently conducted research involving 1,009 adults (487 men and 522 women) living in the continental United States. We asked them questions to understand their views and to learn about their heart-healthy habits.

While some people were well-informed, many others had an opportunity to improve their health and understanding. Based on the findings, we wanted to share heart-healthy recommendations with you, based on the most common misunderstandings we found.

Here are the top seven mistakes to avoid to keep your heart pumping strong:

1. Not knowing how much exercise your body needs

How many minutes a week do you exercise? Most of us work out at least 30 minutes a week, which is a start. However, experts recommend moderate aerobic exercise for at least 2.5 hours each week. Only 20 percent of Americans are aware of this goal, with 40 percent getting less exercise than they should.

RELATED: 21 Fast Facts About Exercise and Your Heart

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2. Letting life get in the way of regular exercise

It happens to everyone; we get busy or tired and we don’t exercise like we should. But if you can stay strong and stick to your routine, your heart and body will thank you. Work to avoid these obstacles, which were the most commonly cited reasons people didn’t exercise: obligations with work or job, being too tired, obligations with family and friends, and being too out of shape.

3. Not having a plan to meet weight loss goals

While half (51 percent) of Americans exercise to lose or maintain their weight, many don’t have a clear plan to make this happen. Remember that you need to burn or cut out 500 calories from your diet to lose one pound a week. Only 31 percent of people who took the questionnaire knew this.

RELATED: Do You Want to Lose Weight? Learn to Relax

4. Not taking advantage of cardiac rehab if you have heart disease

Cardiac rehabilitation has amazing benefits. It can reduce mortality rates from heart disease. Some experts estimate that only 13.9 percent of patients that are eligible for cardiac rehab actually utilize it. However, it can be beneficial after a heart attack, heart surgery, chronic angina, congestive heart failure, and stenting.

5. Not exercising enough if you have heart disease

How much exercise do you need if you have heart disease? The answer: 2.5 hours each week — the same amount as any other healthy adult. Only one-third (34 percent) of Americans are aware of this. More people (45 percent) think people with heart disease need to exercise more than people without.

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6. Not being aware of how health technology can help achieve fitness goals

It’s not a necessity, but if you monitor your heart rate while you exercise or use fitness apps to track your daily activity it can help you gauge your effort and push yourself appropriately. Only half (49 percent) of Americans who exercise weekly have monitored their heart rate during exercise, while 11 percent of people regularly track their daily activity pattern on a phone or tablet fitness app.

7. Waiting for an exercise stress test if you have high cholesterol

In general, doctors do not recommend a stress test for people who do not have heart-related symptoms or high cholesterol. The majority of Americans (81 percent) incorrectly believe that a stress test is necessary. Only 15 percent are aware that it isn’t.

RELATED: Do You Really Need a Stress Test? They’re Not for Everyone

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Steven Nissen, MD

Steven Nissen, MD, is Chairman of the Department of Cardiovascular Medicine at Cleveland Clinic. In 2007, TIME Magazine named him “one of the 100 most influential people in the world.”