Tips to Lower Risk of a Heart Attack or Stroke
Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC
Sometimes, small changes to your lifestyle can really cut your odds of having a heart attack or stroke. Try this step-by-step approach.
1. Exercise a Little Each Day
Moderate physical activity lowers your chances of a heart attack. Shoot for 30 minutes of exercise that gets your heart pumping at least 5 days a week. Brisk walking or swimming are some good choices. On the other 2 days, do strength training, like lifting weights.
If you’ve got a tight schedule, break your exercise routine into small chunks. Try a 15-minute walk in the morning and another before lunch.
2. Set a Reasonable Goal for Weight Loss
If you’re overweight or obese, you don’t have to get thin to reduce your risk for a heart attack or stroke. If you lose 5% to 10% of your weight, you’ll improve your cholesterol numbers and lower your blood pressure and blood sugar levels.
3. Take Your Heart Medicine
It sounds like a no-brainer, but don’t skip your meds. Many people don’t take their medications the way their doctor told them to. Figure out what keeps you from taking your medicine — it could be side effects, cost, or forgetfulness — and ask your doctor for help.
4. Eat Well
If you stick to a healthy diet, you could lower your odds of getting heart disease.
Fill your plate with different kinds of:
Stay away from processed or prepared foods that often are high in salt and added sugar. They’re also filled with preservatives.
5. Drink Some Alcohol, but Not Too Much
If you drink, any type of alcohol helps your heart, but use caution. Too much raises your risk of high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke.
To get the benefit without the risk, stop at one drink a day if you’re a woman and two if you’re a man.
6. Eat a Little Chocolate
Go for dark chocolate, and make sure the ingredients are at least 70% cacao. It’s filled with nutrients that help protect your ticker.
Keep your portions small so you don’t gain weight and work your heart harder.
7. Don’t Smoke
Smoking dramatically raises your risk of heart attacks and strokes. Talk to your doctor about how to quit. You’ll also be doing your friends and family a favor, since secondhand smoke can also lead to heart disease.
8. Pay Attention to Your Symptoms
Don’t just hope they’ll go away. See your doctor if you feel anything unusual, like shortness of breath, changes in your heart rhythm, or extreme tiredness. Also, watch for pain in your jaw or back, nausea or vomiting, sweating, or flu-like symptoms.