Dr. Mehmet Oz's Guide to Preventing a Heart Attack

These seven surprising strategies from Dr. Oz of The Oprah Winfrey Show may prevent a heart attack -- or help you recover from one.

By Sara Altshul

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Get Rid of Belly Fat

    Ask cardiothoracic surgeon Mehmet Oz, M.D. (aka "Dr. Oz" from The Oprah Winfrey Show), what prevents many people from keeping their hearts healthy, and he has a simple answer. "It's fear of failure," he says.

    People fear they'll fail at making the necessary lifestyle changes to protect them against having a heart attack or a stroke. "It's OK to fail and then recover," he says. "Just don't beat yourself up -- we all have flaws." Another reason you might fail to stick with a healthy program is an unconscious belief that you don't deserve to be thin. "You might be afraid that you won't succeed as a thin person," Oz says.

    Oz knows all too well what makes people -- and their hearts -- tick. He's director of the Cardiovascular Institute and Complementary Medicine Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital and professor of surgery at Columbia University in New York City. Through his appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show and other TV programs, his best-selling book series You: The Owner's Manual, coauthored with Michael Roizen, M.D., (Collins, 2005), and now the Dr. Oz show, he's become the unofficial doctor to millions of Americans who welcome his intelligent, no-nonsense, no-jargon bedside manner.

    Push past your fears by finding the joy in adopting a healthy program and by making it fun. "You absolutely can reverse and virtually eliminate heart disease by making sensible lifestyle changes," he says. Believe it or not, "it's really fun to experience the 'aha moment' when you finally learn how to read a food label," he says.

    Take your heart protection to the next level by following these seven strategies that, according to Oz, may come as news to even the savviest heart patients.

Tip 1: Get Rid of Belly Fat

    One reason so many Americans suffer from heart disease is because we tend to carry too much belly fat, which insidiously contributes to the epidemic, Oz says.

    "Belly fat squeezes the kidneys, poisons the liver, raises blood pressure, increases inflammation, and blocks the ability of insulin to work," he says. "Belly fat was designed to store calories because our ancestors had to survive famine," which thankfully is no longer a problem for most people in the industrialized world, Oz says. Some drugs used to reduce blood sugar and