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What you can do to prevent heart disease and stroke

The best way to prevent heart disease and stroke is to modify your lifestyle to reduce or remove known risk factors. Heart disease and stroke risk factors include smoking, high blood pressure (hypertension) and being overweight. Luckily, by making a few basic lifestyle changes, you can combat all three factors.

Exercise. First, make regular exercise part of your routine. It only takes 150 minutes of exercise a week. “This is great news because if you’re pressed for time and not exercising, that should no longer be an excuse,” says Jennifer Hopper, M.S., ACSM-HFS-CET, manager of Piedmont Atlanta Health & Fitness Center.

Aim for 45 minutes three days a week or 30 minutes a day of cardiovascular activity (walking, running, biking, swimming, dancing, aerobics, etc.) until you can work your way up to a longer session. Exercise can help reduce your blood pressure and help you shed excess pounds.

See your doctor regularly. He or she will assess your genetic and lifestyle risk factors, and will make recommendations for keeping heart disease and stroke at bay. Expect your doctor to review your cholesterol levels, blood glucose levels, weight and blood pressure. "An annual physical is a great way to screen for some prevention,” says Brian Krachman, D.O., an internal medicine specialist at Piedmont Physicians Group. "“It’s good to figure out what’s going on in your insides. A lot of times, you don’t feel bad until it’s almost too late.”

Quit smoking. This is one of the single best things you can do to instantly improve your health, as smoking has a negative impact on nearly every system in the body. Talk to your doctor about the best cessation method for you.

Eat the right foods. Diet is a crucial component for preventing chronic illness or a serious health event, like heart disease and stroke. Even if you exercise, quit smoking and see your doctor regularly, you are negating all of your hard work if you do not eat a healthy diet.

While heart disease and stroke are increasingly common among Americans, there are many ways you can prevent these serious diseases in the first place. “This is the news we’re trying to get out to people,” says David Montgomery, M.D., a cardiologist at Piedmont Heart. “Your parents’ medical history doesn’t have to be yours. You can do something about it.” For more information on heart disease and stroke prevention, visit Piedmont Heart Institute.

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