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Risk factors for heart disease may take a toll on your heart over time — making it “older” than you are. That could set you up for a heart attack or stroke down the road. But the reverse is true too. Making heart-healthy changes now may help undo some of that damage — and help turn back the clock on your heart health.
Put time on your side.
If making the heart-healthy lifestyle changes below seems overwhelming, keep this in mind: Even minutes matter. So pick one change at a time — and start small. Over time, you can build on your success.
Ready to go? For each idea below, we’ve included a quick way to help you get started:
1. If you smoke or use tobacco, quit. This is a tough one. But it’s doable! And it’s one of the best ways to lower your risk for heart disease.
Quick start: Make an appointment with your primary care physician (PCP). Ask about medicines and other strategies that may help you quit.*
2. Enjoy heart-healthy foods. Fill your plate with fruits, veggies and fiber-rich whole grains. Foods like fish, nuts, low-fat and fat-free dairy products, skinless poultry and lean meats may also be on the menu. And cut back on foods that are high in sodium, saturated fat and trans fats.
Quick start: Make a meal plan for this week. It’s easier to make better choices when you have heart-healthy ingredients on hand — and a plan to use them.
3. Keep moving. Regular exercise boosts your heart’s fitness and health. Most healthy adults should aim for at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic activity a week.** Add strength exercises on two or more days a week.
Does that sound like too much for your busy schedule? Think short sessions. Break it up into blocks of at least 10 minutes — and squeeze them in when you can.
Quick start: Save the date! Make an exercise appointment in your calendar. Or set a reminder on your smartphone. Then treat it like you would any other important meeting.
4. Watch your weight. Carrying too much weight strains the heart. And it may raise your risk for type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure — both of which make a heart attack or stroke more likely.
Quick start: See where you stand. Then ask your doctor if your result is in a heart-healthy range — and what you can do if you need to lose weight.
5. Manage high-risk conditions. Do you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure or diabetes? If so, work with your doctor on a treatment plan. Make sure you take your medications as directed — and get the checkups recommended for you.
Quick start: If you sometimes forget your meds, try setting a daily alarm on your watch or smartphone. Or make a simple medicine calendar you can mark each time you take a dose.
6. Rethink your drink. Too much alcohol may raise blood pressure. So moderation is key. That means no more than one drink a day for women and no more than two for men.***
7. Tame your tension. Long-term stress may damage your blood vessels. And stress may also affect your risk for heart disease and stroke by triggering unhealthy coping strategies — such as overeating or smoking.
8. Catch some ZZZ’s. Too little sleep may be tough on your ticker. Most adults should get seven to eight hours a night. Some people may need more.
Quick start: Trouble drifting off? Put away your digital devices well before you turn in. And do something relaxing instead — such as reading a book or taking a bath.
Very good for all to read and know what it is saying.