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3. Fill Up on Whole Grains, Fruits, and Vegetables

Whole grains, fruits, and vegetables are high in fiber and low in calories. That makes them ideal foods for staying at a healthy weight. A 2009 study found that people cut their risk of heart disease by 81% and their risk of stroke by 50% if they kept their weight down, exercised 3.5 hours or more a week, didn't smoke, and helped themselves to lots of whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. And a large 2011 study showed that Swedish women who ate a lot of antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables cut their risk of stroke by 17%. Citrus fruits and dark orange, red, yellow, and green vegetables and fruits are good sources of antioxidants.

Tip: Set a goal of filling half of your plate with fruit and vegetables.

4. Maintain a Healthy Weight

Losing excess weight and keeping pounds off isn’t easy. But research shows that staying at a healthy weight lowers your risk of heart disease and stroke. The only proven way is to make long-term lifestyle changes such as cutting calories and getting regular exercise.

Tip: Don’t lose heart if the pounds are slow to drop. Even if you don’t lose weight, you'll cut your risk of heart disease and stroke by exercising and choosing healthy foods.

5. Be a Quitter

Smoking is hard on your heart, not just your lungs. Smoking cigarettes makes a person two to four times more likely to have heart disease and twice as likely to have a stroke. Quitting isn't easy. But it helps to know that other people do. In fact, today there are more former smokers than current smokers. Counseling (individual, group, and telephone), therapies that focus on problem solving, and program treatments via cell phone all work in helping people quit. Nicotine patches, inhalers, and prescribed drugs also work. Counseling and drugs together work better than either by itself.

Tip: Call a quit-smoking line or talk to your doctor aboutgetting help to stop.

6. Know Your Numbers

Taking care of your diabetes lowers your chances of heart disease and stroke. If you keep your blood pressure, cholesterol, and A1c (which is your average blood glucose over the past 2 or 3 months) levels in check, you're on a good path. But to do this, you need to know your numbers. Get checkups often that include blood tests and a physical exam.