Follow these expert steps and you’ll be well on your way to improving your heart health
Lifestyle changes can help improve cholesterol and blood pressure levels and lower your risk of heart disease. Here’s what you can do.
How to improve your cholesterol
People with high cholesterol have twice the risk of heart disease as those with low cholesterol. Here’s what you can do:
Know your stats. Find out if your cholesterol is in the healthy range—which is a total cholesterol of less than 200 mg/dL, an LDL cholesterol (the harmful cholesterol) level of less than 100 mg/dL, and an HDL cholesterol (the “good” type) level of more than 60 mg/dL.
Get moving. Regular exercise can help raise your HDL levels. Every little bit helps—walking just two hours a week can improve cholesterol.
Watch the fats. If you consume about 2,000 calories a day, reduce saturated fats in your diet to less than 13 grams per day and eliminate trans fats altogether. Concentrate on eating foods with omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, like fish, nuts, and avocados.
How to lower your blood pressure
Nearly one-third of Americans have high or elevated blood pressure, but it’s possible to beat it without medication. Try these must-follow tips.
Get checked. Anything 130/80 mmHg or above is considered high blood pressure, but you should consider making lifestyle changes if your stats are 120/80 or above, as that signifies elevated blood pressure.
Pass on the salt. Too much sodium contributes to high blood pressure. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends most adults limit sodium intake to 2,300 mg per day (1 teaspoon), and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends further limiting intake to 1,500 mg/day. Don’t add salt when cooking, and try to avoid processed foods (one can of prepared soup can contain 600-800 mg).
Start walking. Exercise can help make blood vessels more flexible. A brisk 30-minute walk five days a week is a good place to start. Walking off the weight helps too—the AHA suggests that for every 2.2 pounds lost, adults with high blood pressure can expect a 1 mmHg reduction in blood pressure.
How to lower your BMI
BMI—body mass index—is used to determine whether your weight is healthy based on your height. It’s an important indicator of heart health because extra weight can lead to higher blood pressure and cholesterol. Here are some tips for lowering yours.
Know the numbers. You can calculate BMI by dividing your weight in kilograms by your height in meters squared, or look for a BMI calculator online.
Change your diet. Eat 3-4 servings of both fruits and veggies a day. Aim for 2-3 servings of fish per week and 2-3 servings of whole grains a day. Limit sugar-sweetened drinks to 100 calories a day.
Walk it off. Regular exercise can help you slim down and is the best way to maintain a healthy BMI. Even if you’re crunched for time, sneak in a workout in the morning or on your lunch break.
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