Heart disease and stroke are largely preventable by making healthy choices to prevent or reduce risk factors and managing any medical conditions you may have.
Prevention: What You Can Do
Eat a healthy diet. Choosing healthy meal and snack options can help you avoid heart disease and stroke and their complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating foods low in saturated fat and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high blood cholesterol. Limiting salt or sodium in your diet also can lower your blood pressure.
Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors often calculate a number called the body mass index (BMI). Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to measure a person's excess body fat.
BMI is a number calculated from a person's weight and height. BMI provides a reliable indicator of body fatness for most people and is used to screen for weight categories that may lead to health problems. This calculator provides BMI and the corresponding BMI weight status category. Use this calculator for adults, 20 years old and older.
If your BMI falls outside of the "normal" or healthy weight range, you may want to talk to your doctor or health-care provider about how you might achieve a healthier body weight. Obesity and overweight have been shown to increase the likelihood of certain diseases and other health problems.
Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week. Fitting regular exercise into your daily schedule may seem difficult at first, but the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans are more flexible than ever, giving you the freedom to reach your physical activity goals through different types and amounts of activities each week. It's easier than you think!
Not doing any physical activity can be bad for you, no matter your age or health condition. Keep in mind, some physical activity is better than none at all. Your health benefits also will increase with the more physical activity that you do. For more information, click on one of the links below to learn about how much physical activity you need across the lifespan.
- How much physical activity do adults need?
- How much physical activity do children need?
- How much physical activity do older adults need?
Don't smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. So, if you don't smoke, don't start. If you do smoke, quitting will lower your risk for heart disease and stroke. Your doctor can suggest ways to help you quit. Need help quitting? Call the North Dakota Quitline at 1.800.QUIT.NOW to get free help to quit tobacco or log onto NDQuits for a free web-based service.
Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which causes high blood pressure. What’s considered too much? Drinking more than two drinks per day on average for men or more than one drink per day on average for women or binge drinking (drinking five or more drinks during a single occasion for men or four or more drinks during a single occasion for women).
Live healthy moments. Complete acts of healthy living such as going for a walk, cooking at home instead of eating out or doing stretches while watching TV every day. Take care of yourself to be in good health for yourself and those you love. Make healthy moments a family affair and create the legacy of good health and lifestyle habits.