You got this! Learn how to lower your risk for heart disease and manage your diabetes at the same time.
Heart disease is a common condition among older adults in the United States, though not everyone shares the same chance of developing it. The good news is that a few simple lifestyle changes can help keep your key heart measures within normal range and significantly reduce your risk for heart disease.
Your Guide to Healthy Heart Metrics
LDL and HDL Cholesterol Levels
Cholesterol is a fat-like substance naturally produced in your body, and your cells need a certain amount of cholesterol to function properly. If your body creates or takes in more than you need, your risk for heart disease can increase.
There are two types of cholesterol: low-density lipoproteins (LDL), which are considered the "bad" cholesterol and high-density lipoproteins (HDL), the "good" cholesterol that helps your body eliminate the bad kind.
To maintain heart-healthy cholesterol, adults should aim to keep their LDL levels under 100 mg/dL, and their HDL at 40 mg/dL or higher for men and 50 mg/dL or higher for women.
Triglycerides are the most common type of fat in the body that comes from the foods and extra calories that you eat. Your body changes the extra calories you consume into triglycerides which are stored in fat cells until your body needs to release them for energy, but having high triglyceride levels can increase your risk of heart disease.
For optimal health, keep your triglyceride levels below 150 mg/dL.
High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects almost half of American adults, although many don't even know they have it. The combination of high blood pressure and diabetes can increase your risk for heart disease. Keeping your blood pressure under control can help you prevent multiple health conditions in addition to heart disease, including kidney disease, vision loss, and stroke.
Aim to keep your blood pressure levels less than 120Hg over 80Hg.
High blood glucose levels are the hallmark of diabetes and over time, they can damage the blood vessels, as well as the nerves that control the heart and blood vessels. An A1C test shows the average of your blood sugar levels over a three-month period.
To keep your glucose levels heart-healthy, keep your A1C test levels below 7 percent.
Easy Lifestyle Changes to Make Today
Reducing your risk of heart disease is within your reach. Simple, healthy lifestyle changes can help you manage your cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels to improve your overall health.
Follow a Heart-healthy Diet
Eating a healthy diet that is low in sodium and high in lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables is one of the most important things you can do to reduce your risk of heart disease. Not only does eating well help reduce bad cholesterol, glucose levels, and blood pressure, it can also help support weight loss, which is essential to reducing your risk of multiple health issues and improving your overall quality of life.
Eat a balanced diet that includes low-fat dairy, nuts, and whole grains and reduce your intake of red meat, saturated fats, and foods and beverages with added sugars. It also helps to limit your alcohol intake — men should aim to consume no more than two drinks per day, and women no more than one.
At least 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week, or at least 150 minutes weekly of moderate-intensity exercises such as brisk walking, biking, and dancing, can help keep key heart measures in the normal range, as well as help you lose or manage your weight.
In addition to causing bad breath, stained teeth, and thin hair, smoking increases your risk for heart disease and other health conditions including cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disorders (COPD), stroke, and rheumatoid arthritis. To get help quitting, visit the Rite Aid Quit Smoking Solution Center.
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Cutting extra calories helps you manage your triglyceride levels, and the resulting weight loss can help reduce your risk for high cholesterol and high blood pressure, as well as helping to lower your blood glucose levels. Losing just five to 10 percent of your overall weight can make a big difference.
By Joelle Klein
Medline Plus, Cholesterol Levels: What You Need to Know
Medline Plus, Triglycerides
American Heart Association, Lifestyle Changes for Heart Attack Prevention
American Heart Association, Understanding Blood Pressure Readings
American Heart Association, The Facts About High Blood Pressure
National Institute of Health, Diabetes, Heart Disease and Stroke
American Diabetes Association, Checking Your Blood Glucose
Mayo Clinic, Smoking and Rheumatoid Arthritis: What's the Risk?