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Eating well and exercising regularly are both key to managing several modifiable risk factors for heart disease. To get free heart-healthy recipes and tips on how to maintain a healthy lifestyle, sign up for Esstential Habits®. To learn more about the importance of healthy habits, watch the video.
In the meantime, below are some tips, offered by the American Heart Association and WebMD, on how to get started on your road to recovery now. You may already be taking some of these steps, but it's best for you to talk to your doctor to determine what steps are right for you.
The following are some tips on working closely with your doctor.
Take your medicines as prescribed.
It is important to take all of your medicines, including
If you smoke, quit.
If you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day, your risk of having a heart attack is more than twice that of a person who has never smoked. Smoking also increases the risk for sudden cardiac death in people with coronary heart disease. Your doctor can recommend the best method for you to stop smoking.
Manage your calories.
If your doctor recommends that you lose weight, make it your goal to burn up at least as many calories as you consume. First learn how many calories you should consume to maintain your desired weight. Then adjust your diet and increase your level of activity to achieve your goal. Your doctor can help determine the right plan for you. Learn more about typical calorie consumption from the American Heart Association site.
Watch your cholesterol levels.
Desired cholesterol levels vary by the individual. Work with your doctor to find the right cholesterol level for you. But as a general guideline, you want to have an LDL ("bad") cholesterol level under 100, and an HDL ("good") cholesterol level above 40 for men and above 50 for women.
Eat a balanced diet.
To achieve a balanced, heart-healthy diet, try nutrient-rich foods like vegetables, fruits, whole-grain foods, low-fat or fat-free dairy products, fish, lean meats or poultry.
Read food labels.
By reading food labels carefully, you can avoid foods with “empty” calories, which are foods high in calories but relatively low in essential nutrients. When examining labels, be aware of foods that contain undesirable ingredients such as sodium, saturated fats, added sugars, and trans fats. Learn more about how to read food labels from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration site.
Get regular exercise.
Physical activity, such as walking, gardening, or recreational biking, can reduce your heart-disease risk factors and improve your physical health. Regular activities like dusting, washing the car or vacuuming can also provide daily exercise. Talk to your doctor about what exercise is right for you.
Once your doctor says you're well enough, aim to have at least 30 minutes of moderate physical activity each day. You can do this in one session or in several shorter periods spread throughout your day.