There haven't been any scientific studies to show what you can do to prevent small vessel disease, but it seems that controlling the disease's major risk factors — high blood pressure, high cholesterol and obesity — can help. Things you can do that may help reduce your risk include:

  • Don't smoke or use other tobacco products. If you smoke, the most important thing you can do to improve your heart's health is to stop. Quitting other forms of tobacco use can also be helpful. Talk to your doctor if you're having trouble with quitting.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. Too much saturated fat and cholesterol in your diet can narrow arteries to your heart. Follow your doctor's and dietitian's advice on eating a heart-healthy diet that includes plenty of whole grains, lean meat, low-fat dairy, and fruits and vegetables. Also, watch your salt and fat intake. Eating too much salt and saturated or trans fats may increase your blood pressure and cholesterol.
  • Exercise regularly. Regular exercise helps improve heart muscle function and keeps blood flowing through your arteries. It can also prevent a heart attack by helping you to achieve and maintain a healthy weight and control diabetes, elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure. Exercise doesn't have to be vigorous. Walking 30 minutes a day five days a week can improve your health.
  • Check your cholesterol. Have your blood cholesterol levels checked regularly through a blood test. If your bad cholesterol levels are undesirably high, your doctor can prescribe changes to your diet and medications to help lower the numbers and protect your cardiovascular health.
  • Control your blood pressure. Ask your doctor how frequently you need to have your blood pressure checked. Your doctor may recommend more frequent checks if you have high blood pressure or a history of heart disease.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight strains your heart and can contribute to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Losing weight can lower your risk of small vessel disease.
  • Manage stress. To reduce your risk of a heart attack, reduce stress in your day-to-day activities. Rethink workaholic habits and find healthy ways to minimize or deal with stressful events in your life.
  • Control blood sugar levels if you have diabetes. If you have diabetes, keeping your blood sugar at appropriate levels can help reduce the risk of complications. Work with your doctor to establish blood sugar goals that are right for you.
  • If you have polycystic ovary syndrome, ask your doctor if metformin could help. Treatment with metformin (Glucophage, Glumetza), a medication that helps reduce insulin resistance, may reduce the risk of small vessel disease in women with polycystic ovary syndrome.
Apr. 09, 2013

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