Build Healthy Habits

Building healthy habits can have a big impact on your blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol, and reduce the risk of stroke. Healthy habits don’t have to start with big, drastic changes. Even small changes can make a big impact on your health. You can start out by setting smaller goals and working toward bigger ones.

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Choose Healthy Eating

Blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol are all affected by diet. Following a healthy, balanced diet helps reduce blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, and reduces the risk for stroke. Making healthy food choices and adding them into your daily routine will go a long way to improve your long-term health: 

A balanced, healthy diet should include

  • Lots of fruits and vegetables 
  • Whole grains 
  • Lots of plant-based protein (beans, nuts) 
  • Some animal-based proteins (fish, low- or nonfat dairy, and other lean, unprocessed meats)
  • Vegetable oils (non-tropical sources) 

A balanced, healthy diet should limit or avoid

  • Highly processed foods and fried foods
  • Excessive added sugar (soft drinks, candy, desserts, etc.)
  • Excessive added salt (some canned foods, processed foods, etc.) 
  • Excessive alcohol use 

Set calorie goals and track calories to avoid overeating. Your recommended calorie intake depends on many factors, including age, gender, and physical activity levels. 

These recommendations for most healthy adults. Always talk to your primary care provider before making big changes to your diet. 

(American Heart Association, 2021)

Get Active

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends 150 minutes of moderate physical activity per week, or 75 minutes of vigorous physical activity per week. 

  • Moderate physical activity: Walking, gardening, slow cycling, activities where you are active but can still talk comfortably
  • Vigorous physical activity: Jogging, swimming, fast cycling, activities where you are so active that talking is difficult 

Increasing your physical activity level will help you burn more calories. Always talk to your primary care provider about exercise appropriate for your age and situation. Many times, it’s a good idea to set smaller goals and work your way up to more frequent exercise.

(American Heart Association, 2021)

Keep a Healthy Weight

Maintaining a healthy weight improves energy and quality of life. It also reduces risk for high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and high cholesterol. Being at a healthy weight also reduces the risk of stroke. Always talk to your primary care provider about a healthy weight goal for your age, gender and medical conditions. 

The following are just some ways to lose weight or maintain your healthy weight:

  1. Set reasonable goals and include your provider in your decisions.
  2. Eat smaller portions to avoid overeating 
  3. Track calories or consider a food diary. This can help you recognize how much you are eating and why. A food diary can help you figure out what your cravings are and what might influence them.
  4. Get regular physical activity to maintain a healthy weight

(American Heart Association, 2022)

Quit Smoking

Smoking increases your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke, and is related to many other medical conditions. Fortunately, there are many ways to quit smoking. If you’re ready to quit, talk to your provider to learn about what resources are available for you.

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Cope with Stress

Long-term stress can influence your health. Learning to manage stress and respond in a healthy way may help reduce the impact of stress on the body. If you are struggling with stress, talk to your support network, a counselor or therapist, and your primary care provider to get help. The following practices may be helpful for coping with stress: 

  • Engage in positive self-talk to reframe negative situations in a positive way 
  • Identify practices that help calm your mind and body (example: counting to 10, going for a walk, mindfulness meditation, or deep breathing) 
  • Maintain a pattern of regular physical activity, such as walking and yoga 
  • Spend time with friends and family 
  • Spend time outdoors in nature 
  • Process your thoughts through counseling and/or journaling 

If you are having a mental health crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 800-273-8255 (TALK)

(American Heart Association, 2022) 

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References

American Heart Association. (2021). American Heart Association diet and lifestyle recommendations. Retrieved March 8, 2022 from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/aha-diet-and-lifestyle-recommendations 

American Heart Association. (2022). Losing weight. Retrieved March 8, 2022 from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/losing-weight 

American Heart Association. (2022). Stress management. Retrieved March 8, 2022 from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management