Seven steps to prevent heart disease

Want to prevent a heart attack? Take a walk and eat an apple.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), 80% of heart disease and stroke can be prevented with lifestyle changes, like walking and eating healthier. The AHA is encouraging Americans to focus on seven simple lifestyle changes, to lower risk for heart disease and improve overall health.

More than one in three adults has some form of cardiovascular disease. About 80 million U.S. adults have been diagnosed with high blood pressure. Heart disease is the number one killer of American men and women. Even children are at higher risk for obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes because of poor lifestyle habits.

“While treatment and research advances in cardiac care can save a great many lives, significant movement on the needle has to come on the prevention side,” Patrick Thomas, MD, FACC, FAHA, Chief of Cardiology at Hudson Valley Hospital Center. Thomas is AHA board president in Putnam County, “There are simple things everyone can do to lower their risk of the number one and five killers-heart disease and stroke.”

Get active

“Exercise is the single most important thing you can do to improve your overall health. The goal is at least 30 minutes of brisk exercise daily,” said Thomas, who gets up early to run on the treadmill before work, “Along with gaining strength and stamina, exercising regularly can lower blood pressure, keep body weight and blood sugar under control and increase your HDL, the “good” cholesterol.”

You don’t have to join a gym or run in a 5K. Start small by incorporating physical activity into your daily routine like taking the stairs instead of the elevator, park at the farthest end of the parking lot or use half of your lunch break to take a brisk walk.

Keep Blood Pressure and Cholesterol in check

High levels of LDL, the “bad” cholesterol can clog your arteries, increasing your risk of heart attack and stroke. HDL helps clean out that bad cholesterol from the arteries. Improve your cholesterol by exercising regularly and limiting saturated fat and cholesterol.

One in three Americans have high blood pressure, which can increase risk for stroke, the number five killer. Get it checked routinely since it has no outward symptoms. Reducing sodium, losing weight and exercising can help manage blood pressure, as well as blood pressure-lowering medicines.

Eat Healthier

“For most meals, half your plate should be fruits and vegetables,” said Thomas, “Limit empty-calorie foods like soft drinks and junk food.”

The AHA also recommends consuming fish twice a week, like salmon, and eating more whole grains. Enjoy low-fat yogurt for breakfast and fruit for dessert or snacks.

Lose Weight

More than 60% of Americans are overweight or obese. The AHA recommends starting by knowing your healthy weight range and daily calorie goals, and aim to get there in small increments. You can shed 24 pounds a year by dropping just 2 pounds a month, and losing as few as 10 pounds decreases your heart disease risk.

Use an online calorie calculator to know how many calories you should consume to maintain a healthy weight. Then start enjoying plenty of fiber and nutrient rich fruits and vegetables, adding lean proteins and whole grains. Add in exercise while reducing the calories you take in for sensible weight loss.

Reduce Blood Sugar

Diabetes can quadruple your risk of heart disease or stroke. Manage or prevent diabetes by eating healthy foods, controlling your weight, exercising and taking medication prescribed your doctor.

Stop Smoking.

With one in five deaths caused by smoking, going smoke-free can help prevent not only heart disease and stroke, but also cancer and chronic lung disease. Visit for resources.

Visit for more information and a free heart health action plan and visit for more life-saving information, recipes and tips to live a longer, stronger, healthier life.

About the American Heart Association  

The American Heart Association is devoted to saving people from heart disease and stroke – America’s No. 1 and No. 5 killers. We team with millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, fight for stronger public health policies, and provide lifesaving tools and information to prevent and treat these diseases. The Dallas-based association is the nation’s oldest and largest voluntary organization dedicated to fighting heart disease and stroke. To learn more or to get involved, call 1-800-AHA-USA1, visit or call any of our offices around the country.

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