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Heart Disease Health Center

9 Tips to Lower Risk of a Heart Attack or Stroke

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Many conditions, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation, or diabetes, increase your chance of having a heart attack or stroke. Take action today to lower your chances.

1. Exercise a little each day.

Moderate exercise lowers your risk of heart attack by 30% to 50%. Aim for 30 minutes of aerobic exercise at least 5 days a week. On the other 2 days, strength train. If it's too much, break it into small chunks, and build up your time. Try a 15-minute walk in the morning and another before lunch.

2. Set a reasonable goal for weight loss.

If you're overweight or obese, you don't have to get thin to reduce your risk for heart attack and stroke. Losing 5% to 10% of your weight improves cholesterol and lowers your blood pressure and blood sugar.

3. Take your heart medicine.

One study found that 130,000 Americans die every year because they don't take heart medicines the way their doctor told them. Figure out what keeps you from taking your medicine -- such as side effects, cost, or forgetfulness – and ask your doctor for help.

4. Eat well.

Make the effort to follow a healthy diet and you could lower your risk of heart disease by 25%. Fill your plate with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, and lean meats.

5. Drink some alcohol, but not too much.

If you’re already a drinker, the good news is any type of alcohol helps your heart. Too much alcohol, though, raises your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, stroke, and symptoms from atrial fibrillation. To get the benefit without the risk, limit alcohol to one drink if you’re a woman and two if you’re a man.

6. Eat a little chocolate.

Several studies show that people who eat chocolate more than once a week lower their risk of heart disease by almost 40%, of diabetes by about 30%, and of stroke by about 30%. Until researchers determine the amount of chocolate that lowers risk, keep your portions small so you don’t gain weight and work your heart harder.

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