Vacations are good for the heart, right? According to the American Heart Association, they are – when you do them right. Follow these tips and you’ll be on your way to a healthier heart and a five-star getaway.

1. Exercise – starting now

You’ve earned those long days on the beach or exploring the world. By sticking to an exercise plan approved by your physician now, you’ll have more energy to bask in your time off later. Exercise can also make you stronger and more agile for navigating sand dunes, walking tours and ancient cobblestone roads.

2. Think twice about all-you-can-eat cruises and resorts

If you find an all-inclusive vacation deal that’s too good to pass up, arm yourself with a smart eating plan and full activity roster. Stick to your normal eating schedule and keep healthy snacks so you’re never over-hungry. When visiting the buffet, use a smaller plate, limit desserts and avoid midnight grazing. Before going back for that second helping, ask yourself, “Am I really hungry?” You may just be thirsty, as thirst is often mistaken for hunger.

3. Prep for the flight

Avoid stress by arriving at the airport with time to spare. Doing so can help you maintain a lower heart rate and blood pressure. Choose an aisle seat to make it easier to walk around during the flight, encouraging blood flow from the heart to the body. Compression socks and loose-fitting shoes can also promote circulation for improved energy levels. Finally, pass on the alcohol, which can lead to dehydration, adding strain on your heart. Instead, shoot for 8 ounces of water for every hour in the air.

4. Pace yourself

Relax. You’re on vacation. Make the most of your time by slowing down and planning ahead to keep stress levels under control. Head out a few minutes early for reservations, ticketed events, meet-up times and tours, so you don’t have to rush. Pencil in rest time for busier days on the go. And if you start to feel overstretched, unwind and refresh with yoga, a massage or a power nap.

5. Hit the snooze

Quality sleep can strengthen your immune system and improve overall health and mood. Still, 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough sleep according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Set aside ample time to rest, sleep and dream on vacation, boosting better habits for when you’re back home.

6. Unplug

Give yourself permission to put your cell phone away, leave emails unchecked and give social media a break. You deserve this time to disengage and destress. Don’t deny yourself the real value of this important investment to refuel, reenergize and relax. Your mind, body, heart and spirit will pay you back twofold.

7. Stay hydrated

Good hydration is key in helping the heart pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles more easily. When you’re hydrated, your heart doesn’t have to work so hard. While you’ll likely have many beverage options on your vacation, water is best. Drinking 88 ounces of water a day is recommended for women – 120 for men*. However, some factors can affect this amount, including climate, caffeine, exercise and medications.

*Food and Nutrition Board at the federal Institute of Medicine

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