Sometimes, small changes to your lifestyle can really cut your odds of having a heart attack or stroke. Try this step-by-step approach.
1. Exercise a Little Each Day
Moderate physical activity lowers your chances of a heart attack. Shoot 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 medications. Many people don't take their medications the way their doctor told them to. Figure out what keeps you from taking your medicine -- it could be 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.
Fill your plate with different kinds of:
- Whole grains
- 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. Limit How Much Alcohol You Drink
If you don't drink already, don't start.
If you do drink, limit how much you drink. The recommendation is no more than one drink a day if you are a woman, and no more than two a day if you are a man.
Drinking raises your heart rate and blood pressure. It also increases the level of fat in your blood and can cause you to gain weight.
6. Know Your Numbers
Get regular health screenings to check your cholesterol, blood pressure and blood sugar (glucose) levels.
Keeping a check on these numbers can help you be more aware of the changes you need to make to keep these numbers within normal limits.
7. Don't Smoke
Smoking dramatically raises your risk of heart attacks and strokes. 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.