The American Heart Association recommends these Seven Simple Steps for a healthier heart.
1. Get moving. The AHA prescribes 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise, 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise, or a combination of the two. Physical activity can be anything that makes you burn calories, such as climbing stairs, playing sports, walking, jogging, swimming or biking.
2. Keep track of your cholesterol
. Whether it’s cholesterol-lowering medications or diet and lifestyle changes, carefully follow your doctor's recommendations. To keep your cholesterol under control, the AHA recommends that you schedule a screening, eat foods low in cholesterol and saturated fat and free of trans fat, maintain a healthy weight and stay physically active.
3. Eat heart-friendly foods. A diet with lots of vegetables, fruits, fish and unrefined whole grains is preferred. Stay away from things with partially hydrogenated oils, and try to eat less than 300 milligrams of cholesterol and 1,500 milligrams of sodium each day.
4. Manage and monitor your blood pressure. The good news is that high blood pressure is manageable. And if you’re following these steps, then you’re probably already experiencing some of the benefits. The next logical steps are getting regular blood pressure readings and keeping track of your progress. The AHA defines high blood pressure as a reading equal to or greater than 140 over 90 mmHg.
5. Lose extra pounds. Extra fat around your waist can put you at greater risk for high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes. Talk with your primary care physician about your body mass index and a healthy goal for you.
6. Lower your blood sugar. Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes, according to the AHA. Talk with your doctor about changes in your eating habits, weight control, exercise programs and medication to keep it in check.
7. Say no to smoking and tobacco use. Tobacco use is the most important preventable cause of premature death in the United States, according to the AHA. Smoking decreases your ability to exercise and increases the tendency for blood to clot. It also decreases HDL (good) cholesterol. If you smoke or use tobacco, you are putting yourself at risk for a lifetime of heart disease.
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