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October 2023

Roadmap to a Healthy Heart

Let’s say life is a road trip. And let’s say a healthy heart is one of the major destinations. Today, we have better directions than ever before—plus an improved GPS system.

Follow the road signs

In the U.S., heart disease—not cancer or stroke—is the number one threat to a person’s life. And older adults aren’t the only population at risk. It can happen at any age.

To keep you heading in the right direction, follow these targeted heart disease prevention guidelines. Read the road signs and sample a few of the recommendations:

Go!

  • Move it move it. Try to get at least 150 minutes (two hours and 30 minutes) of moderate-intensity aerobic activity every week to improve your health. Break down the 150 minutes into as many smaller sessions as needed. Even if you can fit in only a few minutes of activity at a time, it’s still beneficial. Walk around your neighborhood, use the stairs, ride a bike—it all adds up to lower heart risks.

  • Rev up on fish. Eat salmon, bluefin tuna, or mackerel at least twice a week.

Caution!

  • Slow down on fats, salt, and alcohol. You can lower your LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol by cutting saturated fat to 6% of your daily calories, and trans fats to as low as possible.

  • Limit sodium to no more than 1 teaspoon per day, and alcohol to 1 drink (for women) or 2 drinks (for men).

Stop!

  • Quit smoking. Ask your healthcare provider about nicotine replacement, counseling, and medicines to help you quit. Over time, you will gradually have the same risk for heart disease as a nonsmoker. 

  • Pass on folic acid and antioxidant supplements as preventives. These won’t protect you from heart disease.

Check your numbers

What’s your risk for heart attack or stroke?

The American Heart Association recommends getting some specific tests to get a picture of your heart health. Work with your provider to follow this testing schedule:

  • Blood pressure: Each regular healthcare visit or at least once every 2 years, starting at age 20

  • Cholesterol: Every 4 to 6 years, starting at age 20

  • Weight/body mass index: All healthcare visits

  • Waist circumference: As needed

  • Blood glucose: At least every 3 years, starting at age 45

Talk with your healthcare provider about your risk. Together, you can decide how to best take charge of your heart health.

 

 

 

Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Ray Turley BSN, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 11/1/2021
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