Here are the five most common mistakes people make – and how to avoid them, courtesy of More magazine.

  • Mistake #1: You exercise 20 minutes a day. That’s not bad, but the new American Heart Association guidelines recommend 60 to 90 minutes of exercise most days for people who want to maintain or lose weight. Carrying around extra weight taxes your heart by raising blood pressure, elevating “bad” LDL cholesterol, and lowering “good” HDL cholesterol.
  • Mistake #2: You think a side of fries every now and then is okay, but just one high-fat meal inhibits your HDL cholesterol’s ability to fight plaque and keep your arteries clear. A study in Australia found that three hours after a fatty meal, a person’s arteries are significantly less able to expand to pump blood. In fact, the fat in one serving of fries a day triples your risk of heart disease. So, limit your intake of saturated fats to less than 7%. In a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s 14 grams – the exact amount you’d find in a Taco Bell Fiesta Taco Salad, or a chicken pot pie from Boston Market.
  • Mistake #3 : You reach for the saltshaker. A study in the British Medical Journal found that lowering salt intake by 25% reduces your risk of heart disease by 25%. They recommend keeping your intake to less than one teaspoon of table salt a day, and avoiding commercially-prepared and processed foods, which are packed with hidden salt.
  • Mistake #4 : You  never nap. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health recently found that midday siestas reduced coronary death by about one-third. Why? The scientists believe it’s because napping may decrease some of the day-to-day stress that can wreak havoc on your heart.
  • Mistake #5 relates to women in particular: You think your doctor is looking out for your heart. Don’t take it for granted that your doctor understands your risk of heart disease. According to an American Heart Association study, only 8% of primary care physicians and 17% of cardiologists know that heart disease kills more women than men every year. So, talk to your doctor, and if they’re not attuned to your risk of heart disease, find another physician.