Do you want to cut the odds of a heart attack or stroke? Sometimes just small tweaks to your lifestyle can be a huge help. Try this step-by-step approach.
1. Exercise a Little Each Day
Moderate physical activity lowers your chances of getting a heart attack by 30% to 50%. Aim for 30 minutes of exercise that gets your heart pumping at least 5 days a week. Brisk walking or swimming are some good choices. On the other 2 days, do strength training, like lifting weights.
If you've got a tight schedule, break your exercise routine into small chunks. 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 a heart attack or stroke. If you lose 5% to 10% of your weight, you'll improve your cholesterol numbers and lower your blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
3. Take Your Heart Medicine
It sounds like a no-brainer, but don't skip your meds. A lot of people don't take their medications the way their doctor told them to. 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
If you stick to a healthy diet, you could lower your odds of getting heart disease by 25%. Fill your plate with different kinds of fruits, veggies, whole grains, fish, and lean meats. Stay away from processed or prepared foods that often are high in salt and added sugar. They’re also filled with preservatives.
5. Drink Some Alcohol, but Not Too Much
If you drink, any type of alcohol helps your heart, but use caution. Too much raises your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
To get the benefit without the risk, limit yourself to one drink a day if you're a woman and two if you're a man.
6. Eat a Little Chocolate
Several studies show that people who eat it more than once a week lower their risk of heart disease by almost 40% and stroke by about 30%. Go for dark chocolate, and make sure the ingredients are at least 70% cacao. It's filled with nutrients that help protect your ticker.
Keep your portions small so you don't gain weight and work your heart harder.
7. Don't Smoke
Smoking dramatically raises your risk of heart attacks and strokes, so talk to your doctor about how to quit. You'll also be doing your friends and family a favor, since secondhand smoke can also lead to heart disease.
8. Pay Attention to Your Symptoms
Don't just hope they'll go away. See your doctor if you feel anything unusual, like shortness of breath, changes in your heart rhythm, or extreme tiredness. Also watch for pain in your jaw or back, nausea or vomiting, sweating, or flu-like symptoms.