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Six Simple Ways To Lower Your Risk Of Heart Disease

Health--heartBy Constance Brown-Riggs, MSEd, RD, CDE, CDN

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in African Americans, and if you have diabetes, you are two to four times more likely to die from heart disease than adults without diabetes. The following tips can help you take steps to reduce your risk of heart disease.

1. Keep the Pressure Down
High blood pressure is often referred to as a “silent killer” because you don’t always have symptoms. It quietly strains your heart, damages blood vessels and increases your risk of heart attack, stroke, eye problems, and kidney problems. The blood pressure goal for most people with diabetes is below 140/90 mm Hg.

2. Control Cholesterol
You have two kinds of cholesterol in your blood: LDL and HDL. LDL or “bad” cholesterol causes narrowing and hardening of the arteries, so this number should be under 70 mg/dl.

HDL or “good” cholesterol provides protection by removing deposits from inside the arteries. HDL for men should be above 40 mg/dl and for women above 50 mg/dl.

3. Lose the Belly Fat
Excess belly fat around your waist, even if you are not overweight, can raise your chances of developing heart disease. Belly fat is associated with an increase production of bad cholesterol. If your waist measures more than 40 inches for men and 35 inches for women, you should start a weight-loss and exercise plan.

4. Get Moving
Exercising can lower your risk of heart disease. It can lower your blood glucose, blood pressure, and bad cholesterol while increasing your good cholesterol. For overall cardiovascular health, the American Heart Association recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity at least five days per week or 25 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity at least three days per week. You should also include two days of moderate to high-intensity strength training.

5. Know your A1C
The A1C test shows your average blood glucose level over the past three months. This is different from the blood glucose checks that you do every day. The higher your A1C number, the higher your blood glucose levels have been during the past three months. High levels of blood glucose can harm your heart, blood vessels, kidneys, feet, and eyes. The A1C goal for many people with diabetes is below 7 percent.

6. Kick the Habit
Your risk for getting heart disease doubles if you are a smoker. Smoking narrows the blood vessels and increases the risk of other long-term complications, such as eye disease and amputation. If you kick the habit, you will lower your risk for heart attack; your blood glucose, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels may improve, and you will likely have an easier time being physically active.

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