10 Tips to Keep Your Heart Safe from Heart Disease and Stroke
You have the power to help prevent cardiovascular disease by following these heart-healthy tips.
Cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, is the number one killer of women in the United States. Although this disease affects more women than all forms of cancer combined, many women don't realize it is the biggest threat to their health.
The good news is there are many things you can do to help keep your heart healthier and to lower your risk of heart disease and stroke. These include:
- SEE YOUR DOCTOR. Get your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood glucose levels checked. If any of your numbers are high, follow your doctor's advice to lower them. If you are overweight, also ask for suggestions to help you reach or maintain a healthy weight.
- STOP SMOKING. Instead of quitting cold turkey, try this four-step approach to quitting: Day 1 – cut the number of cigarettes you smoke in half. Day 3 – cut the number in half again. Day 5 – cut the number in half again. Day 7 – quit!
- EXERCISE MORE. Find an exercise you like to do, go for a walk or start by marching or jogging in place for at least 15 minutes a day while watching TV. Each week, increase your activity by five minutes a day until you're exercising at least 30 minutes most days of the week.
- EAT LOTS OF PRODUCE. Your diet should include a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables, which contain nutrients and phytonutrients that help prevent heart disease. Try to eat five to nine servings of fruits and vegetables every day.
- EAT NUTS. Nuts are rich sources of monounsaturated fats, which can help lower cholesterol. Include about one ounce of nuts per day in your diet, including almonds, walnuts, peanuts, brazil nuts and hazelnuts. Don't overdo it though, because nuts are very calorie dense.
- EAT SEAFOOD. Eating seafood once or twice a week increases the amount of healthy omega-3 fatty acids you eat and decreases your risk of heart disease. Fish such as mackerel, salmon, albacore tuna and sardines have the most omega-3 fatty acids.
- REDUCE SATURATED FATS. Saturated fats contribute to plaque buildup inside your arteries and raise cholesterol. Butter, lard, whole milk, cream, animal fat and bacon are especially high in saturated fat. So are many snack products, such as chips, crackers and pastries.
- USE MONOUNSATURATED FATS. Olive oil and canola oil are high in monounsaturates, which help reduce blood cholesterol and may raise levels of HDL ("good") cholesterol. Whenever possible, substitute this type of fat for saturated fat, such as using olive oil instead of butter.
- INCREASE FIBER. Fiber helps to lower cholesterol, and people who eat more fiber tend to have a lower risk of heart disease. Fiber is found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Aim to eat 25 to 35 grams of fiber each day.
- REDUCE SODIUM INTAKE. The average American consumes 2,300-6,900 milligrams of sodium each day. The American Heart Association® recommends keeping sodium intake under 2,300 milligrams, or preferably under 1,500 milligrams daily, to help reduce blood pressure.
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Date Last Reviewed: November 2, 2022
Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor
Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD