Preventing Heart Disease and Stroke
Heart disease and stroke are an epidemic in the U.S. Many of the people who are at high risk for heart attack or stroke don’t know it. The good news is that many of the major risk factors for these problems can be prevented and controlled. Talk with your health care provider about your heart health. Getting your blood pressure and cholesterol checked are important first steps to reduce your risk. Many other lifestyle choices can also help protect your heart and brain health. These include eating healthy, exercising regularly, and following your health care provider’s advice about your medicines.
Remember Your ABCS
ABCS stands for:
Keep the ABCS in mind every day. Bring it up when you talk with your health care provider.
Talk to Your Health Care Provider
When you talk with your health care provider, share your health history. Get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked. Also ask if taking an aspirin each day is right for you.
Control Your Blood Pressure and Cholesterol
High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of heart disease and stroke. One in 3 adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure. Half of these people don’t have their condition under control.
Similarly, high cholesterol affects 1 in 3 American adults. More than half of these people don’t have the condition under control. Half of adults with high cholesterol don’t get treatment.
If your blood pressure or cholesterol is high, take steps to lower it. This could include eating a healthier diet, getting more exercise, and following your health care provider's instructions about medicines you take.
To help you better understand high blood pressure and what you can do to prevent or treat it, click here.
Eat Healthy for Your Heart
What you eat has a big impact on your heart health. When planning your meals and snacks, try to:
Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
Check the labels on your food and select those with the lowest amount of salt or sodium. Too much salt in your diet can increase your blood pressure.
Limit foods high in saturated fat, transfat, and cholesterol. You can find this information on the nutrition facts label.
Cook at home more often. When possible, choose foods that are low in sodium or have no salt added. Limit sauces, mixes, and instant products, including flavored rice and ready-made pasta.
Obesity or being very overweight can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. To keep your body at a healthy weight, make physical activity part of your daily life. This will also help you fight high blood pressure and cholesterol. Try to fit in 2.5 hours of moderate exercise every week.
Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you’re a smoker, quit as soon as possible. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. You can also support smoke-free policies in your community and try to avoid secondhand smoke.
Barriers to Effective Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention
Many people with key risk factors for heart disease and stroke—such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol—don’t know that they have these conditions, what blood pressure or cholesterol numbers are best for them, or how their high blood pressure or cholesterol could be better controlled. Other barriers include:
Access to convenient, consistent, and affordable monitoring of blood pressure and cholesterol
Lack of continuity of care
Not enough time spent with health care providers to ask important questions and get personalized advice
Medication expense, side effects, and habits around daily use
Need for community-based strategies for healthier lifestyle choices, such as smoke-free air policies