5 Tips to Prevent Heart Disease

February is American Heart Month, a time to raise awareness about one of the deadliest killers on the planet: heart disease.

Heart disease is the No. 1 killer of American men and women.

But there are plenty of things Americans can do to improve their chances when it comes to heart health.

Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, the director for women and heart disease at the Heart and Vascular Institute of Lenox Hill Hospital, joined "Good Morning America" to share her top five lifestyle changes that could keep Americans just a little healthier.


See her tips below and, for more information on heart health, click here.

1. Keep Blood Sugar Low

"As blood sugars go up, the insulin your body produces is not as effective," Steinbaum said. "This 'pre-diabetes' condition is known as metabolic syndrome, which means your body has a problem handling sugars. You'll see the effect of this in a sluggish metabolism, a slight increase in blood pressure, a big belly, high tryglicerides and high blood sugars.

"We know that the chances of heart disease increases seven-fold if you have diabetes. So if you have borderline elevated blood sugars -- that 'pre-diabetes' condition -- you need to watch your diet. Too many bagels, pasta, sweets, a big belly and big tush -- all can raise your blood sugars and raise your risk of heart disease," she said.

2. Try a Mediterranean Diet

"The nurses health study, made up of 75,000 women, found that the Mediterranean diet reduced the risk of heart attack by 29 percent and the risk of stroke by 13 percent," Steinbaum said.

"It is almost as powerful as statins in reducing your risk of heart-related problems. If you eat lots of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats like olive oil, small portions of nuts, little red meat and fish on a regular basis, you'll lower your risk of diabetes, metabolic syndrome and heart disease," she said.

3. Don't Rely on Multivitamins

"Multivitamins are seen as antioxidants, and the reason people take them -- other than those who need to boost a bad diet -- is for the prevention of heart disease and cancer. A huge trial by the women's health initiative followed 160,000 women who took high dose multivitamins with big doses of Vitamin B, selenium and zinc. The results showed no increase or decrease of heart attacks, strokes or thromboembolism (blood clots). So, multivitamins can't be seen as prevention," Steinbaum said.

"However, what it also tells us is that people who take multivitamins to prevent a risk of heart disease are most likely very committed to keeping healthy. They make a good diet and exercise part of their lives and are healthier anyway," she said.

4. Exercise

According to Steinbaum, exercising is "the most potent medication we have."

"It reduces weight and increases metabolism, which means a lower risk of heart disease and stroke," she said. "We just have to make it part of our lifestyles."

5. Don't Over-Sleep

Studies have shown that a nice, long sleep may not be as nice to your body as it is long.

"The perfect amount of sleep is 7.5 hours," Steinbaum said. "We know the effect if we sleep too little, but if we sleep too much, we're taking away from the time during which you can do something healthy. If you're sleeping more than nine hours, we can assume you're living a pretty sedentary lifestyle -- watching TV, etc. Sleeping that much gives you less time to exercise and do what you need to do to stay healthy," she said.