How Can I Make My Lifestyle Healthier?

Updated:Feb 8,2013

It’s never too late to make better health choices. All you need is a goal, a plan and the desire to live better.

Here are some simple steps to take:

  • Don’t smoke cigarettes or use other tobacco products.
  • Have your blood pressure checked regularly. Keep your blood pressure below 120/80 mm Hg.
  • Eat a healthy diet consistent with recommendations from the American Heart Association.
  • Be more physically active. Get at least 150 minutes of moderate- intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity (or a combination) each week.
  • Maintain a healthy weight (body mass index less than 25 kg/m2).
  • Keep your total cholesterol at less than 200 mg/dL.
  • Keep your fasting blood glucose at less than 100 mg/dL.
How do I stop smoking?
  • Ask your family and friends to support you.
  • Ask your healthcare provider for information, programs and medications that may help.
  • Go where smoking isn’t allowed, and avoid being around people who smoke.
  • Keep busy doing things that make it hard to smoke.
  • Remind yourself that smoking causes many diseases, and can harm or kill you and others.
How do I manage my blood pressure?

  • If your doctor has put you on medication, take it exactly as prescribed.
  • If you are overweight, lose weight.
  • Be more physically active.
  • Reduce your salt (sodium) intake.
  • Eat more fruits, vegetables and non-fat dairy products.

How do I change my eating habits?

  • Eat at least 4.5 cups of fruits and vegetables per day.
  • Eat at least 2 (3.5-oz) servings of fish per week.
  • Eat at least 3 1-oz servings of fiber-rich whole grains per day.
  • Keep sodium to less than 1,500 mg per day.
  • Limit sugar-sweetened beverages to no more than 450 calories (36 oz) per week.
  • Limit processed meats and choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products.

What about physical activity?

  • Start slowly and build up to a total of 30 to 60 minutes on most or all days of the week.
  • Look for ways to be more active. Take walking breaks for 10-15 minutes during the day or after meals.
  • Check with your doctor before you start if you’ve been inactive a long time or have a chronic condition.
How can I reach and maintain a healthy weight?
  • To lose weight, you must take in fewer calories than you use.
  • Follow an overall healthy diet pattern.
  • Get and stay physically active.
How do I manage my cholesterol?
  • Get your blood cholesterol level checked at least once every five years. Start at age 20.
  • If your total blood cholesterol level is 240 mg/dL or higher, it’s too high. You’ll need it checked more often.
  • Limit your saturated fat intake to less than 7 percent of total calories.
  • Keep your trans fat intake to less than 1 percent of total calories.
  • You can lower it with diet changes, regular physical activity, weight loss and/or drug therapy.
  • If your doctor has put you on medication, take it exactly as prescribed.

What can I do to reduce my blood sugar?
  • Reduce consumption of simple sugars that are found in soda, candy and sugary desserts.
  • Take medications or insulin if it is prescribed for you.

How can I learn more?

  1. Talk to your doctor, nurse or other healthcare professionals. If you have heart disease or have had a stroke, members of your family also may be at higher risk. It’s very important for them to make changes now to lower their risk.
  2. Call 1-800-AHA-USA1 (1-800-242-8721), or visit to learn more about heart disease.
  3. For information on stroke, call 1-888-4-STROKE (1-888-478-7653) or visit us online at

We have many other fact sheets and educational booklets to help you make healthier choices to reduce your risk, manage disease or care for a loved one. Visit to learn more.

Knowledge is power, so Learn and Live!

Do you have questions or comments for your doctor or nurse?

Take a few minutes to write your own questions for the next time you see your healthcare provider. For example:

What’s the most important change I can make?

What if I go back to bad habits?

©2012, American Heart Association

Multi-language Fact Sheet Topics

Heart-related Conditions
What is Angina?
What is an Arrhythmia?
What Is Atrial Fibrillation?
How Can I Lower High Cholesterol?
What Do My Cholesterol Levels Mean?
What Are High Blood Cholesterol and Triglycerides?
What Is High Blood Pressure?
How Can I Reduce High Blood Pressure?
High Blood Pressure and Stroke
What Is Diabetes and How Can I Manage It?
How Can I Live With Heart Failure?
What Is Heart Failure?
What Is a Heart Attack?
How Will I Recover From My Heart Attack?
What Are the Warning Signs of Heart Attack?
What Are Heart Disease and Stroke?
What is Metabolic Syndrome?
What is Peripheral Vascular Disease?

Stroke, Recovery and Caregiving
Hemorrhagic Stroke
Ischemic Stroke
What Are the Warning Signs of Stroke?
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Stroke
Stroke Diagnosis
Changes Caused by Stroke
Emotional Changes After Stroke
Feeling Tired After a Stroke
Stroke and Rehabilitation
Stroke Family Caregivers
How Should I Care for Myself as a Caregiver?

Treatment, Tests and Procedures
What is Cholesterol-Lowering Medicine?
What is High Blood Pressure Medicine?
What Are Anticoagulants and Antiplatelet Agents?
What Is an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator?
What Is a Pacemaker?
What Is Coronary Angioplasty?
What is a Stent?
What is Coronary Bypass Surgery?
What is a Coronary Angiogram?
How Can I Recover From Heart Surgery?
What is Carotid Endarterectomy?

Healthy Lifestyle and Risk Reduction
How Can I Manage My Weight?
How Can Physical Activity Become a Way of Life?
Why Should I Be Physically Active?
How Do I Follow a Healthy Diet?
Why Should I Limit Sodium?
How Do I Read "Nutrition Facts" Labels?
How Can I Quit Smoking?
How Can I Manage Stress?
How Can I Make My Lifestyle Healthier?
How Can I Monitor My Cholesterol, Blood Pressure and Weight?