Choosing healthy habits can help prevent heart disease and other chronic health problems.
Healthy habits that can make a difference.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends adopting 5 healthy habits for better heart health and prevention of other chronic diseases.
Eat healthy meals.
Good nutrition starts with food that is good for you. If changing your diet seems overwhelming, start with one healthy change, and build from there. Here are some recommendations with proven health benefits to consider:
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods.
- Limit salt (sodium) in your diet.
- Eat foods low in saturated and trans fats and cholesterol.
- Reduce your sugar intake.
- Eat foods high in fiber.
- Limit alcohol to no more than two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.
Commit to regular physical activity.
Physical activity can help you maintain or lose weight and lower your blood pressure, blood cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.
The Surgeon General recommends 2.5 hours (30 minutes a day for 5 days per week) of moderate-intensity exercise for adults, like brisk walking or bicycling. Children and adolescents should get one hour of physical activity every day.
Maintain a healthy body weight.
People who are overweight or obese have a higher risk for heart disease. Carrying extra weight can put additional stress on the heart and blood vessels.
You can calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) at CDC’s Assessing Your Weight website to determine if your weight is in a healthy range.
Cigarette smoking significantly increases your risk for heart disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk of smoking-related illnesses. Your healthcare provider can suggest different strategies to help you quit smoking.
Take Charge of Your Medical Conditions.
If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, or diabetes, you can take steps to lower your risk for heart disease.
Check your cholesterol.
All adults should have a baseline cholesterol test. If you have been diagnosed with high cholesterol or it’s part of your family history, you may need to check your cholesterol more often.
Talk with your healthcare team about this simple blood test. Lifestyle changes and medication can help reduce your cholesterol.
Control your blood pressure.
High blood pressure usually has no symptoms, so have it checked regularly.
If you have high blood pressure, your healthcare team might recommend lifestyle changes, such as lowering the sodium in your diet. Your doctor may also prescribe medicine to help lower your blood pressure or recommend more frequent blood pressure monitoring.
Manage your diabetes.
If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels carefully. Talk with your healthcare team about treatment options. Your doctor may recommend specific lifestyle changes to help keep your blood sugar under control. These actions will help reduce your risk for heart disease and other diabetic complications.
Take your medications as directed.
If you take medicine to treat a chronic health condition, follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. Ask your doctor questions if you don’t understand something. Ask for a further explanation if you don’t understand any aspect of these instructions.
If you have difficulty tolerating the medication or are experiencing side effects, notify your healthcare provider as soon as possible.
If the cost of the medication is a problem, speak to your doctor about a more reasonably priced alternative. Always consult with your healthcare provider before discontinuing a medication.
Work with your healthcare team.
You and your healthcare team can work together to manage and improve your overall health. Discuss your treatment plan regularly and bring a list of questions to your appointments. Be honest about what will and will not work for your lifestyle.
The most critical influence on your health and well-being is YOU. Follow the recommendations above and make choices today for a longer, healthier life.