Someone dies from heart disease, stroke or another cardiovascular disease every 43 seconds in the U.S., according to the American Heart Association (AHA). To help you live a longer, healthier life, the AHA notes seven things you can do to reduce your chances of a heart attack or stroke.
1. Know your risk. Certain factors can increase your risk, including smoking, kidney disease, high cholesterol, hypertension, diabetes and a family history of early heart disease. Many risk factors can be prevented or managed by making lifestyle changes.
2. Eat healthy. Build your diet around vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, plant-based proteins, lean animal proteins and fish. Make smart choices like limiting refined carbohydrates, processed meats and sweetened drinks. Use the nutrition label on packaged foods to cut back on sodium, added sugars and saturated fats, and avoid trans fat.
3. Stay active. Move more–it’s one of the best ways to stay healthy, prevent disease and age well. Adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. If you’re already active, you can increase your intensity for even more benefits. If you’re not active, get started by simply sitting less and moving more.
4. Watch your weight. Stay at a healthy weight for you. Lose weight if you’re overweight or obese. Start by eating fewer calories and moving more. You can check your body mass index (BMI), and if you need help, talk to your doctor about a weight loss plan.
5. Live tobacco-free. If you don’t smoke, vape or use other tobacco products, don’t start. There’s no such thing as a safe tobacco product. If quitting tobacco is a challenge for you, ask your doctor to help you kick the habit using proven methods. And try to avoid secondhand smoke, too!
6. Take your medicine. If you have a health condition, your doctor may prescribe statins or other medications to help control cholesterol, blood sugar and blood pressure. Take all medications as directed. But don’t take aspirin as a preventive measure unless your doctor says to. If you’ve never had a heart attack or stroke, a daily aspirin may not help you at all and could cause problems, including risk of bleeding. If you’ve had a heart attack or stroke, your doctor may want you to take a low dose of aspirin to reduce your risk of having another.
7. Be a team player. Your doctor is one of the best resources to help you reduce your risk of heart disease or stroke. Work together on your prevention plan and to address current health conditions. Ask questions, and be open about any challenges you may face in trying to make healthy changes. Stress, sleep, mental health, family situations, tobacco use, food access, social support and other issues can all affect your health and well-being.