American Heart Health Month: 6 tips to keep your ticker in check

PHOTO CREDIT: Metro Creative

Did you know that 25% of the 805,000 heart attacks per year in the U.S. are recurrent?

The American Heart Association reports that once you’ve experienced a heart attack, your chances of having another one is higher. In fact, nearly one in five patients who’ve had a heart attack will have another cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or stroke, within one year.

While there are various factors that contribute to a heart attack, cholesterol is one of the most important modifiable risk factors.

In time, high levels of bad cholesterol can build up in your arteries and create clogs, making it difficult for blood to flow to where your body needs it. This can ultimately lead to a devastating heart attack.

Here are six tips you can implement to help manage your cholesterol numbers:

1. Get checked. Stay on top of your numbers by having your cholesterol checked regularly. This is particularly important if you already have experienced a heart attack.

2. Eat a heart-healthy diet. A heart-healthy diet is low in saturated fat and trans-fat. You can reduce these fats in your diet by limiting your intake of fried food, red meat and dairy products made with whole milk and by cooking with healthy oils, such as vegetable or olive oil. Emphasize fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish and nuts, while curbing sugary foods and beverages. Eating this way increases your fiber intake, which can help lower your cholesterol.

3. Be physically active. A sedentary lifestyle lowers HDL (good) cholesterol, which is needed to remove LDL (bad) cholesterol from your arteries. Stay physically active to not only improve your cholesterol but also to manage your blood pressure. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get 2.5 hours of moderate intensity exercise per week in order to lower high cholesterol.

4. Quit smoking. According to the CDC, smoking damages your blood vessels, speeds up the hardening of the arteries and greatly increases your risk for heart disease.

5. Manage weight. Being overweight tends to raise LDL cholesterol and lower HDL cholesterol. Losing excess weight can improve your cholesterol levels.

6. Take proper medication. Bad cholesterol can be lowered by lifestyle changes, but diet and exercise alone might not be enough to lower LDL-C. Medications like statins are important in lowering LDL-C, but patients who’ve had a heart attack might need to talk to their doctor about additional treatments to lower cholesterol even further.

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