A heart-healthy lifestyle is important for everyone, not just for people with existing health problems. It can help you keep your heart and blood vessels healthy. If you already have health problems, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure, a healthy lifestyle can help you lower your risk of a heart attack and stroke.
If you have children, you can be their healthy role model. If your habits are healthy, your children are more likely to build those habits in their own lives.
How can you keep your heart healthy?
- Use less salt when you cook and eat. This helps lower your blood pressure. Taste food before salting. Add only a little salt when you think you need it. With time, your taste buds will adjust to less salt.
- Eat fewer snack items, fast foods, canned soups, and other high-salt, high-fat, processed foods.
- Read food labels and try to avoid saturated and trans fats. They increase your risk of heart disease by raising cholesterol levels.
- Limit the amount of solid fat — butter, margarine, and shortening — you eat. Use olive, peanut, or canola oil when you cook. Bake, broil, and steam foods instead of frying them.
- Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables every day. Dark green, deep orange, red, or yellow fruits and vegetables are especially good for you. Examples include spinach, carrots, peaches, and berries.
- Foods high in fiber can reduce your cholesterol and provide important vitamins and minerals. High-fiber foods include whole-grain cereals and breads, oatmeal, beans, brown rice, citrus fruits, and apples.
- Eat lean proteins. Heart-healthy proteins include seafood, lean meats and poultry, eggs, beans, peas, nuts, seeds, and soy products.
- Limit drinks and foods with added sugar. These include candy, desserts, and soda pop.
- If your doctor recommends it, get more exercise. Walking is a good choice. Bit by bit, increase the amount you walk every day. Try for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. You also may want to swim, bike, or do other activities.
- Do not smoke. If you need help quitting, talk to your doctor about stop-smoking programs and medicines. These can increase your chances of quitting for good. Quitting smoking may be the most important step you can take to protect your heart. It is never too late to quit.
- Limit alcohol to 2 drinks a day for men and 1 drink a day for women. Too much alcohol can cause health problems.
- Seeing your doctor regularly and getting screening tests is important. The sooner your doctor diagnoses a disease, the more likely it can be cured or managed. The tests you might have to check your risk for heart and blood vessel problems depend on your age, health, sex, and risk factors. Talk to your doctor to find out which tests are right for you.
- Managing health conditions, such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol, can help keep your heart and body as healthy as possible.
- Take your medicines exactly as prescribed. Call your doctor if you think you are having a problem with your medicine.