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1. Control Cholesterol.
The body makes most of the cholesterol we need and gets the rest from the foods we eat, specifically from animal products such as meat, eggs, poultry, fish, and dairy. But you have to strike a balance to prevent too much cholesterol in the blood. High levels of bad cholesterol can clog your arteries, increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke. Exercise regularly and avoid foods with excess saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. For some people, medication may be needed.
2. Manage Blood Pressure.
Keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range starts with eating a heart-healthy diet. Other important factors are exercising regularly, not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, limiting your salt intake, limiting the amount of alcohol you drink and taking medication prescribed by your doctor.
3. Control Blood Sugar.
Diabetes can quadruple your risk of heart disease or stroke, and can cause blindness and nerve disease, among other health complications.
You can minimize the impact of diabetes on your body — and even prevent or delay the onset of diabetes — by eating right, controlling your weight, exercising and taking medication prescribed your doctor.
4. Maintain Healthy BMI/Weight.
Too much fat, especially around the belly, increases your risk for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. So give your heart a break by dropping the extra pounds — and keeping them off.
5. Be Active.
Aim for 2.5 hours of moderate exercise each week.
6. Eat Well.
Eating the right foods can help you control your weight, blood pressure and cholesterol. So what’s a heart-smart diet? Half of your plate should be fruits and veggies, eat fish at least twice a week, fiber-rich whole grains every day, less than 1,500 milligrams of sodium per day and no more than 450 calories a week of sugar-sweetened beverages. Another tip is to watch for foods stamped with the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check Mark.
7. Don’t Smoke.
The payoff from putting down tobacco products starts almost immediately. If you smoke, quit now. What are you waiting for?