By following the lifestyle choices outlined in the American Heart Association’s (AHA's) “Life’s Simple 7,” you can build a strong foundation for your cardiovascular—and overall—health. Know your numbers and understand what they mean:
Manage blood pressure
- An ideal blood pressure is 120 over 80. Your systolic (top number) should be 120 or lower and your diastolic (bottom number) should be 80 or below.
- Keeping track of your numbers between health care appointments helps you detect changes in your typical range, and you can share those results with your provider.
- Did you know that there is “good” (HDL) and “bad” (LDL) cholesterol, and that the “good” actually helps clear out the “bad?”
- Your total cholesterol level shouldn’t be higher than 200, and your HDL should be above 60. Discuss your numbers with your provider to understand what your numbers mean for you and whether you need to make lifestyle changes or take medication.
- Your diet should include fruit, vegetables, whole grains and non-fat or low-fat protein such as fish, skinless poultry, lean meats, nuts, seeds and oils.
- There here are healthy fats (avocados, nuts and seeds) that raise your HDL (“good” cholesterol) and there are unhealthy fats such as saturated and trans fats.
- Sodium intake is an important part of cardiovascular health, so avoid the “salty six” as much as possible:
- Breads and rolls
- Cold cuts and cured meats
- Canned soups
- Burritos and tacos
- Learn how to read food labels so that you can monitor the amount of sodium, sugar and calories that you eat.
Reduce blood sugar
- The following daily guidelines for sugar intake:
- Men – 9 teaspoons / 36 grams / 150 calories or less.
- Women and kids ages 2+ – 6 teaspoons / 25 grams / 100 calories or less.
- Children under 2 should not consume any added sugars.
- Keep your intake of sugars in check by cutting down—or eliminating—soda, table sugar or foods that contain added sugars like sweetened breakfast cereals or ice cream.
- 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity, 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity or a combination of both spread throughout the week.
- Do muscle-strengthening activities like resistance training at least twice a week, for about 40 minutes.
- Losing weight helps relieve the stress put on your body—especially your heart.
- Know your Body Mass Index (BMI). A BMI above 25 is considered overweight and a BMI over 30 is considered obese.
- There’s no need for a fancy diet. Follow the guidelines of a healthy diet consisting of healthy fruits, veggies and healthy, as recommended by the AHA.