Know Your Risk
While anyone can be at risk for cardiovascular disease or stroke, your risk increases based on age and family history. High blood pressure or unhealthy blood cholesterol levels can also play a major role.
Some risk factors, such as family history, can’t be controlled, but the good news is that you can take control of certain lifestyle-related aspects of your health to better protect your heart – and your life. For example:
Learn to eat right and love it
You need the right mix of fruit, vegetables, lean meat or other protein, whole grains, and healthy fats like olive oil or those found in nuts, seeds and fatty fish. If you have high blood pressure, limit salt and avoid high sodium processed foods. Try new recipes and foods to find healthy options that you enjoy. Your doctor or a dietitian can help.
Exercise doesn’t have to be boring. Walking, dancing, working in the garden or playing with children can count. Talk to your doctor about what activities are best for you.
Your chances of having a stroke are 1.5 times higher than in people who don’t have diabetes. But, you can lower your risk by taking care of your health and properly managing your blood glucose. (ADA).
Control your high blood pressure
Weakened arteries in the brain, resulting from high blood pressure, put you at a much higher risk for stroke — which is why managing high blood pressure is critical to reduce your chance of having a stroke (AHA).
Don’t use tobacco
Smoking, secondhand smoke, smokeless tobacco – any method of taking nicotine into your body can affect your heart health. If you use tobacco, find a way to stop. Your doctor can help you find a method that works for you.
Limit alcohol intake
Alcohol can increase blood pressure and triglyceride levels in your blood, which may also increase your risk for heart disease or stroke. As a general guideline:
- Women should have no more than 1 drink a day.
- Men should have no more than 2 drinks a day.
Watch your weight
Being overweight puts an added strain on your heart and can lead to diabetes and other conditions that can damage your heart. Talk to your doctor about what is a healthy weight for you and how you can reach and maintain it.
Manage your stress
No one can completely avoid stress, but you can find ways to reduce it and manage it in healthy ways. While the link between stress and heart disease isn’t clear, stress can take a toll on your overall health and can lead to unhealthy coping strategies, such as drinking, smoking or overeating. Instead, you can manage stress by getting plenty of rest, avoiding negative self-talk, taking breaks at work and at home, and learning simple relaxation methods. Some people benefit from meditation, counseling or even medication. Talk to your doctor if stress might be affecting your health and quality of life.