Lifestyle changes can help you prevent or slow the progression of atherosclerosis.
- Stop smoking. Smoking damages your arteries. If you smoke or use tobacco in any form, quitting is the best way to halt the progression of atherosclerosis and reduce your risk of complications.
Exercise most days of the week. Regular exercise can condition your muscles to use oxygen more efficiently. Physical activity can also improve circulation and promote development of new blood vessels that form a natural bypass around obstructions (collateral vessels). Exercise helps lower blood pressure and reduces your risk of diabetes.
Ideally, you should exercise 30 to 60 minutes most days of the week. If you can't fit it all into one session, try breaking it up into 10-minute intervals. You can take the stairs instead of the elevator, walk around the block during your lunch hour, or do some situps or pushups while watching television.
- Eat healthy foods. A heart-healthy diet based on fruits, vegetables and whole grains — and low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium — can help you control your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. Try substituting whole-grain bread in place of white bread; grabbing an apple, a banana or carrot sticks as a snack; and reading nutrition labels as a guide to controlling the amount of salt and fat you eat.
- Lose extra pounds and maintain a healthy weight. If you're overweight, losing as few as 5 to 10 pounds (about 2.3 to 4.5 kilograms) can help reduce your risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol, two of the major risk factors for developing atherosclerosis. Losing weight helps reduce your risk of diabetes or control your condition if you already have diabetes.
- Manage stress. Reduce stress as much as possible. Practice healthy techniques for managing stress, such as muscle relaxation and deep breathing.
If you have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes or another chronic disease, work with your doctor to manage the condition and promote overall health.
May 30, 2014
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- The seventh report of the Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Pressure. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/guidelines/hypertension/jnc7full.htm. Accessed Oct. 3, 2013.
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