When you have atherosclerosis — plaque build-up that causes narrowing of your arteries and reduces blood flow to and from your heart — you are at higher risk for heart attack, stroke or heart failure.
There are many causes of atherosclerosis, including:
- High-fat diet
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
- Inflammation from other chronic conditions, like arthritis or lupus
- Insulin resistance
It’s important to take steps to protect your heart and prevent atherosclerosis as it often doesn’t show any symptoms until it’s too late. Stay heart healthy with these tips.
1. Eat healthy
A plant-based, nutritious diet also improves chronic conditions, like high blood pressure and cholesterol levels.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a heart healthy diet that includes:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Lean poultry and fish (without skin)
- Low-fat dairy
- Non-tropical vegetable oils (olive oil or sunflower oil)
- Nuts and legumes
- Whole grains
2. Stay active
Regular exercise can help reduce your risk of developing atherosclerosis. That’s because physical activity:
- Improves blood circulation
- Lowers blood pressure
- Promotes development of new blood vessels
- Reduces your risk of diabetes
- Teaches your body to use oxygen more effectively
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (.pdf) recently released new guidelines on physical activity. For adults, that includes:
- At least 150 minutes of moderate physical activity a week
- Muscle strengthening workouts at least twice a week
- Sitting less and moving more
You can break up 150 minutes of exercise in as small as 10-minute increments throughout the week.
3. Stop smoking
Smoking is a leading cause of heart disease. Reduce your risk of atherosclerosis by kicking your tobacco habit to the curb. Quitting on your own can be challenging. Consider signing up for support group or smoking cessation class. Your doctor can also help guide you to the resources you need to successfully quit.
4. Maintain a healthy weight
A healthy body mass index (BMI) reduces your risk of developing chronic conditions, like diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. These put you at higher risk for other serious medical issues, including atherosclerosis. Experts estimate that losing just 5 to 10 pounds reduces your risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
5. Manage stress
Put your heart first and better manage your stress by:
- Exercising regularly
- Focusing on the positive
- Practicing gratitude
- Trying different relaxation techniques, like meditation, yoga or tai-chi
We understand changing the way you eat, live and play can be difficult. That’s why we’ve developed many community-based programs, resources and classes to help you Get Healthy and Live Well. Find the support that’s right for you.