How Can I Make My Lifestyle Healthier?

Updated:Mar 22,2016

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.
  • Reach and maintain a healthy weight (body mass index less than 25 kg/m2).
  • Have your cholesterol checked. Talk to your doctor about your numbers and how they impact your overall risk.
  • Keep your fasting blood glucose at less than 100 mg/dL.
How do I stop smoking?
  • Decide on a Quit Day and 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, work to reach and maintain a healthy weight.
  • Be more physically active.
  • Reduce your salt (sodium) intake.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet.

How do I change my eating habits?

  • Eat a diet rich in vegetables and fruits.
  • Choose whole-grain foods and low-fat dairy products.
  • Eat fish, preferably those containing omega-3 fatty acids (for example, salmon, trout and herring), at least twice a week.
  • Select skinless poultry and choose lean cuts of meat.  But, limit your intake of red meats.
  • Include legumes, nuts and seeds.
  • Use healthy fats and oils, such as olive, canola, corn or safflower.
  • Limit how much saturated fat, trans fat and added sugars you eat.
  • Choose and prepare foods with little or no sodium (salt). Aim to consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day.
  • If you drink alcohol, drink in moderation. 

What about physical activity?

  • Get at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity activity (or a combination) each week.
  • Include muscle-strengthening activity at least 2 days per week for additional health benefits.
  • Look for ways to be more active. Take walking breaks for 10 to 15 minutes during the day or after meals.
How can I reach and maintain a healthy weight?
  • To lose weight, you must take in fewer calories than you use.
  • Follow an overall heart-healthy diet.
  • Get and stay physically active.
How do I manage my cholesterol?
  • Get your cholesterol checked at least once every five years. Start at age 20.
  • Talk to your doctor about your numbers and how they impact your overall risk.
  • Limit your saturated fat intake to less than 5 to 6 percent of total calories.
  • You can improve your cholesterol 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. Call 1-800-AHA-USA1 (1-800-242-8721), or visit to learn more about heart disease and stroke.
  2. Sign up to get Heart Insight, a free magazine for heart patients and their families, at
  3. Connect with others sharing similar journeys with heart disease and stroke by joining our Support Network at
We have many other fact sheets to help you make healthier choices to reduce your risk, manage disease or care for a loved one. Visit to learn more.


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?

©2015, American Heart Association

Multi-language Fact Sheet Topics

Heart-related Conditions
What is Angina?
What is an Arrhythmia?
What Is Atrial Fibrillation?
What Do My Cholesterol Levels Mean?
How Can I Improve My Cholesterol?
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 Artery Disease?

Stroke, Recovery and Caregiving
Hemorrhagic Stroke
Ischemic Stroke
Stroke, TIA and Warning Signs
What Are the Warning Signs of Stroke?
Stroke Risk Factors
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Stroke
Stroke Diagnosis
Complications After Stroke
Changes Caused by Stroke
Emotional Changes After Stroke
Feeling Tired After a Stroke
Stroke and Aphasia
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?
How Do I Manage My Medicines?
What Is an Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator?
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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?
How Can I Cook Healthfully?
Why Should I Limit Sodium?
How Do I Understand "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?