6 Steps to a Healthier Heart

6 Steps to a Healthier Heart

Your Prescription for Lowering Your Risk for Heart Disease, Heart Attack and Stroke

Heart disease and stroke are an epidemic in the United States. Many of the people at high risk for heart attack or stroke don’t know it. The good news is that many of the major risks for these conditions can be prevented and controlled through healthy lifestyle changes.

What are the benefits of a healthy lifestyle? Good living habits can help you feel younger longer. This is especially true for your heart. On average, U.S. adults have hearts that are seven years older than they should be. But by living a healthy lifestyle, you can help keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar normal and lower your risk for dementia, heart disease and heart attack. You can also help improve your loved ones’ heart health by the example you set. A healthy lifestyle includes the following:

Eat a healthy diet
Do you and your family regularly feast on food that’s not so healthy? Get up to speed on simple ways to transform eating habits like increasing the quantity of fresh fruit and vegetables at each meal to half of your plate, accompanied by lean protein and whole grains. Make produce more interesting and appealing by picking new fruits and vegetables to taste test and try new recipes with familiar ones.

Follow these guidelines for healthy eating:

  • Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in a variety of colors, especially dark green and orange
  • Avoid processed foods
  • Eat foods low in saturated fats, trans fat, and cholesterol (like avocado and olive oil, peas, beans, lean meat and fish)
  • Enjoy high fiber foods (whole grains and vegetables) to help prevent high cholesterol
  • Limit salt/sodium in your diet to help lower blood pressure
  • Limit sugar to lower your blood sugar level to prevent or help control diabetes

Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight or obese increases your risk for heart disease. To determine if your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate your body mass index (BMI). If you know your weight and height, you can calculate your BMI. BMI between 25 -29.9 is considered overweight and 30 and above is obese. View the Eat More, Weigh Less brochure for helpful ideas on managing weight without being hungry.

Move for 30 minutes, most days of the week
Move into action against heart disease with physical activity. Physical activity can have a profound, beneficial effect on heart health by lowering your blood pressure, cholesterol and sugar levels. It also boosts mood and keeps your body stronger as you age. Adults should aim for getting 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity (like a brisk walk) each week, or about 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. Grab a walking buddy and get moving!

Ditch the cigarettes other forms of tobacco
Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit. For more information about tobacco use and quitting, see CDC’s Smoking & Tobacco Use website.

Limit alcohol use
Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can raise your blood pressure. Men should have no more than two drinks per day, and women only one. For more information, visit CDC’s Alcohol and Public Health website.

High blood sugar, blood pressure or cholesterol?
Work with your doctor to keep your blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol under control.

Adapted from the Centers from Disease Control Healthy Living, Heart Age & Heart Disease Facts

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Valley Medical Center's Marketing and Community Outreach Office