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You can do a lot to lower your odds of getting heart disease. Taking action will improve your health — and, possibly, save your life. Get going on these 8 ways to get on track.
1. Quit smoking. If you smoke, you are more than twice as likely to have a heart attack as nonsmokers, and you’re much more likely to die if you do have a heart attack.
2. Improve cholesterol levels. You’re more likely to get heart disease if you have:
Total cholesterol level over 200, HDL (“good”) cholesterol level under 40, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol level over 160 and Triglycerides over 150.
Cholesterol isn’t the only thing that matters. Your doctor will consider the big picture, including all your potential risks. To help lower cholesterol levels, eat a diet low in cholesterol, saturated fat, and refined sugars and high in fiber.
3. Control high blood pressure. More than 50 million people in the U.S. have hypertension, or high blood pressure, making it the most common heart disease risk factor. Exercise and healthy eating as well as avoiding salt help. Some people may need medicine to control their blood pressure, too.
4. Get active. People who don’t exercise are more likely to get heart disease, and die from it, than people who are active. Check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, especially if you aren’t active now. She can tell you what you can do.
5. Follow a heart-healthy diet. Eat foods that are low in fat and cholesterol. Just about everyone should eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, and other plant-based foods. The fiber is good for your cholesterol, and you’ll get vitamins the natural way, from foods. Also limit salt and sugar. Most people get too much of both.