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Heart disease can be improved — or even prevented — by making certain lifestyle changes. The following changes can help anyone who wants to improve heart health:
Check your cholesterol. Ask your doctor for a baseline cholesterol test when you're in your 20s and then at least every five years. You may need to start testing earlier if high cholesterol is in your family. If your test results aren't within desirable ranges, your doctor may recommend more frequent measurements.
Most people should aim for an LDL level below 130 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dL), or 3.4 millimoles per liter (mmol/L). If you have other risk factors for heart disease, you should aim for an LDL below 100 mg/dL (2.6 mmol/L). If you're at very high risk of heart disease — if you've already had a heart attack or have diabetes, for example — aim for an even lower LDL level — below 70 mg/dL (1.8 mmol/L).
Move. Exercise helps you achieve and maintain a healthy weight and control diabetes, elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure — all risk factors for heart disease. If you have a heart arrhythmia or heart defect, there may be some restrictions on the activities you can do, so talk to your doctor.
With your doctor's OK, aim for 30 to 60 minutes of physical activity most days of the week.
Also, get regular medical checkups. Early detection and treatment can set the stage for a lifetime of better heart health.
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