Heart Disease, What You Need to Know

Heart Disease, What You Need to Know

ABCs of a Healthy Heart
Your lifestyle is not only your best defense against heart disease and stroke, it’s also your responsibility. Start with the ABCs of a healthy heart.

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Good nutrition, controlling calorie intake and physical activity are the only ways to maintain a healthy weight. Obesity places you at risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure and insulin resistance, a precursor of type 2 diabetes — the very factors that heighten your risk of cardiovascular disease.



Research has shown that getting at least 30 minutes of physical activity on five or more days of the week can help lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol and keep your weight at a healthy level. If you’re doing nothing now, start out slow. Even ten minutes at a time may offer some health benefits.



Choose nutrient-rich foods — which have vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients but are lower in calories — over nutrient-poor foods. A diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole-grain and high-fiber foods, fish, lean protein and fat-free or low-fat dairy products is the key. To maintain a  healthy weight, coordinate your diet with your physical activity level so you’re using up as many calories as you take in.

Reduce Blood Cholesterol

Fat lodged in your arteries is a disaster waiting to happen. Sooner or later it could trigger a heart attack or stroke. You’ve got to reduce your intake of saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol and get moving. If diet and physical activity alone don’t get those numbers down, then medication may be the key. Take it just like the doctor orders. Here’s the lowdown on where those numbers need to be:

Total Cholesterol: Less than 200 mg/dL

LDL (bad) Cholesterol

  • If you’re at low risk for heart disease: Less than 160 mg/dL
  • If you’re at intermediate risk for heart disease: Less than 130 mg/dL
  • If you’re at high risk for heart disease (including those with existing heart disease or diabetes): Less than 100mg/dL

HDL (good) Cholesterol

  • 40 mg/dL or higher for men and 50 mg/dL or higher for women
  • Triglycerides: Less than 150 mg/dL
Lower High Blood Pressure

The single largest risk factor for stroke is high blood pressure. Stroke is the No. 3 killer and one of the leading causes of disability in the United States. Shake that salt habit, take your medications as recommended by your doctor and get moving.

  • Ideally your blood pressure should be 120/80 mmHg.
Manage Diabetes

People with diabetes are two to four times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease due to a variety of risk factors, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, smoking, obesity and lack of physical activity.

Lower Stress Levels

In today’s fast-paced world filled with increasing demands, it’s important to manage your stress levels. Some people cope with stress by overeating or eating unhealthy foods, smoking, drinking and other activities that raise their risk for heart attack, stroke and high blood pressure. Quitting smoking and reducing stress may improve your chances of recovering from a heart attack, stroke or chronic heart disease.

Drinking too much alcohol can raise blood pressure and lead to heart failure or stroke. It can contribute to high triglycerides, produce irregular heartbeats and affect cancer and other diseases.


Sources: ©2011 American Heart Association, Inc.