So how do you protect yourself?
Protect yourself from heart disease, the nation’s No. 1 killer, with Life’s Simple 7® — easy-to-embrace ways to significantly lower your risk of heart disease and improve your health. How simple is it?
Just take a look:
- Get Active. You don’t have to join a gym or run in a 5K. Start small by incorporating physical activity into your daily routine more and more: Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park at the farthest end of the parking lot or use your lunch break to take a quick walk. For a healthy heart, aim for at least 2 ½ hours of moderate physical activity each week. Up for an intense workout? You’ll get heart-pumping benefits with at least 75 minutes of vigorous exercise throughout the week or a combination of both.
Along with gaining strength and stamina, regular physical activity can lower blood pressure, keep body weight under control and lower your LDL — otherwise known as “bad” cholesterol. Regular physical activity is also associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes, reduced depression, improved bone density, and improved sleep quality for adults. Learn the American Heart Associations Guidelines for Physical Activity in Adults.
- Control Cholesterol. We all have cholesterol, a waxy substance in the bloodstream and in the cells of our body. But despite its reputation, cholesterol it isn’t all bad. In fact, it plays an important role in keeping us healthy. But a balance must be struck to prevent too much cholesterol in the blood. There are two types: the “good” kind (HDL) and the “bad” kind (LDL). High levels of bad cholesterol can clog your arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. This is where good cholesterol comes into play: HDL cleans out that bad cholesterol from the arteries.
Regular physical activity, limiting saturated fat by limiting red meats and choosing low-fat dairy, and including healthier fats such as certain vegetable oils can help adults who need to lower LDL cholesterol levels. It’s also important to limit trans fats, too. For some people, diet and lifestyle changes alone aren’t enough. Your doctor may prescribe cholesterol-lowering medication to keep your cholesterol levels in check. If you don’t know your cholesterol levels, talk to your doctor about scheduling a cholesterol screening.
- Eat Better. Eating the right foods can help you control your weight, blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. Follow a dietary pattern that includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and other healthy choices. Penny Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., a nutritionist at Penn State University who herself uses Life’s Simple 7 says, “It’s important to choose fruits and vegetables over empty-calorie foods.”
What’s a heart-smart diet? Looking for foods stamped with the American Heart Association’s Heart-Check mark is one sure way to know you’re choosing a food that meet the Heart-Check certification requirements for saturated fat sodium and added sugar. Read the American Heart Association's Recommendations for Diet and Lifestyle.
- Manage Blood Pressure. About 33 percent of American adults has high blood pressure — yet about 14% of adults 60 years and older don’t even know they have it. That’s because high blood pressure, “the silent killer,” has no symptoms. Keeping your blood pressure in a healthy range starts with eating a heart-healthy diet. Other important factors are exercising regularly; maintaining a healthy weight; limiting salt and alcohol; and taking medication prescribed by your doctor.
- Maintain a Healthy Weight. Overweight and obesity are risk factors for cardiovascular disease. In the US, 69% of adults are either overweight or obese. Higher body mass index (BMI) is associated with higher risk of type 2 diabetes and obesity is a strong predictor of sleep disordered breathing. For overweight or obese adults with other cardiovascular risk factors (such as high blood pressure), maintaining a weight loss of 3-5% of body weight can produce clinically meaningful results. Greater weight loss can produce even greater results on BP, cholesterol levels, and blood sugar. Learn more about losing weight.
- Reduce Blood Sugar. Diabetes is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Heart disease death rates among adults with diabetes are 2 to 4 times higher than adults without diabetes. 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. In some cases, lifestyle changes result in less need for medication.
- Stop Smoking. It’s time to kick the habit. Going smoke-free can help reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, but also cancer and chronic lung disease. The payoff is almost immediate. Quit smoking and you’ll lower your excess risk of developing heart disease and stroke within only a few years.
Last reviewed 5/2016