Seven Steps to Heart Health

Help Your Heart With These 7 Steps

Good News! You can decrease your risk for heart disease by making healthy lifestyle choices and managing medical conditions you may have. The American Heart Association has developed a checklist of seven simple ways to improve heart health called “Life’s Simple 7,” which can be found in more detail at www.heart.org.

By Jenni Frankenberg Veal

1. Get Active:

Exercising for as little as 30 minutes each day can reduce your risk for heart disease. The more vigorous the activity, the greater the benefits. 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes per week of vigorous exercise is recommended.

2. Control Cholesterol:

Cholesterol is used for producing cell membranes and some hormones, but too much cholesterol in the blood is a major risk for coronary heart disease (which leads to heart attack) and for stroke. Have your cholesterol checked. Eat foods low in cholesterol and saturated fat and free of trans fat. Maintain a health weight. Stay physically active.

3. Eat Better:

Nutrient-rich foods have vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients, but are lower in calories. Choose vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products, fish, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products most often. Avoid foods containing partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.

4. Manage Blood Pressure:

High blood pressure can lead to stroke, heart attack, kidney failure, and even heart failure. Maintaining healthy blood pressure reduces the risk of blockages, blood clots, or hardened or weakened arteries.

5. Lose Weight:

If you have too much fat – especially if a lot of it is at your waist – you’re at higher risk for such health problems as high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol and diabetes. When coming up with a fitness and nutrition plan to lose weight, it’s crucial to understand your recommended calorie intake. If needed, consult with a professional for help in creating a plan.

6. Reduce Blood Sugar:

Adults with diabetes are two to four times more likely to have heart disease or a stroke than adults without diabetes. It is important for people with diabetes to have regular check-ups and work closely with a healthcare provider to manage diabetes and control any other risk factors for heart disease.

7. Stop Smoking:

Smokers’ risk of developing coronary heart disease is two to four times that of nonsmokers. Smokers have a higher risk of developing many chronic disorders, heart attack (myocardial infarction) and stroke. Look for stop-smoking support groups for help.

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