Deborah Ferguson, NBCDFW.com
"I think the most important thing is to encourage healthy lifestyles. Eat a healthy, low fat, low cholesterol diet. Exercise. What is recommended is 30 minutes a day as many days as you can per week," encouraged Dr.Sreenivas Gudimetla, a cardiologist who speaks on behalf of the AHA.
Debbie Hansen of Dallas put those simple steps in action.
"I have a lot to go. I was a bigger girl than I am now, but I wanna be a smaller girl," said the 43-year-old woman.
Her downsizing started at work. She's a sales manager at a Fast Signs store, and one word on a sign for the AHA'S annualHeart Walk got her going.
"The dot that got me was the start," explained Hansen, as she pointed to the big green START logo in the association's Heart Walk banners. "The whole point is start walking, start doing something. I was like, that's what I need to do. I need to start, so on I went out the door."
And she went for a walk around the building, just once that first time, but she kept at it.
"It was a challenge to myself to make 11 times around that building to make a mile, so I did," recalled Hansen.
She's up to three miles now - not all at once. Like a lot of women she's too busy to block off time to exercise, so she breaks it up.
"It didn't matter that I did five minutes at one time, 10 minutes at another, and 15 minutes another time. Eventually they all added up," she explained.
Which is kind of what happened to Debbie's weight. Over time, it added up. So again, she made small changes: more fruit, fewer drive-thru trips and Dr. Peppers, but not deprivation.
"Now I have it once a week, but it's a really good Dr. Pepper when I have it once a week," she smiled.
"I know getting as big as I got, obesity is a word I hate, but it's a big risk factor for heart disease, and I don't wanna be there," Hansen told NBCDFW.
"There is a direct relation between obesity and the development of heart disease," warns Dr. Gudimelta.
And Debbie Hansen takes that possibility seriously.
"I've lost over 120 something pounds, but I wanna lose a hundred more," she said. "I still have more to go, but it took me 40-something years to get this round, so it'll take me a few more to get this hundred off. Hopefully, if I keep eating right and exercise, that'll work for me."
In fact, getting active and eating better are listed in the AHA's Life's Simple 7 campaign. It's designed to improve health by educating the public on how best to live.
"Avoiding tobacco. Being physically active. Eat a healthy diet. Keep a healthy weight. If high blood pressure is high, it's controlled. Making sure cholesterol, if it's high, is at a good safe level. And making sure diabetes is not part of what describes you, and if so, that it's taken care of," explained Dr. Eduardo Sanchez, chief medical officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield in Richardson and a spokesperson for the AHA. "Those seven things can protect women in a way that nothing else can protect them."