Self-management

Prevention

There are no studies about preventing 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 might reduce your risk include:

  • Don't smoke or use other tobacco products. If you smoke, stop. Quitting other forms of tobacco use can also be helpful. Talk to your doctor if you have trouble quitting.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet. Eat a heart-healthy diet that includes whole grains, lean meat, low-fat dairy, and fruits and vegetables. Limit salt, sugar, alcohol, and saturated fat and trans fats.
  • 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 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 should have your blood pressure checked. He or she might 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.
  • Manage stress. Rethink workaholic habits and find healthy ways to minimize or deal with stressful events in your life. Yoga, meditation and listening to music can help reduce stress.
  • Control blood sugar levels if you have diabetes. Keep your blood sugar at appropriate levels to help reduce the risk of complications. Work with your doctor to establish blood sugar goals that are right for you.