Heart disease and stroke are an epidemic in the U.S. Many don’t realize that they are at high risk for heart attack or stroke. The good news is that many of the major risk factors for these problems can be prevented or controlled. Getting your blood pressure and cholesterol checked are important first steps to reduce your risk.

Lifestyle choices can also help protect your health. These include eating healthy, exercising regularly and following your health care provider’s advice.

Try to fit in 2.5 hours of moderate exercise every week.

Remember your ABCS

ABCS stands for:

  • Aspirin therapy may have a small benefit for some.
  • Blood pressure control.
  • Cholesterol management.
  • Smoking cessation.

Keep the ABCS in mind every day. Bring it up when you talk with your health care provider.

Talk to your health care provider

When you talk with your health care provider, share your health history. Get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked. Follow your provider’s advice about medicines. Also ask if taking low-dose aspirin is right for you.

Control your blood pressure and cholesterol

High blood pressure is one of the leading causes of heart disease and stroke. One in three adults in the U.S. has high blood pressure. Half of these people don’t have their condition under control.

Tips for eating healthy

Similarly, high cholesterol affects 1 in 3 American adults. More than half of these people don’t have the condition under control. Half of adults with high cholesterol don’t get treatment.

If your blood pressure or cholesterol is high, take steps to lower it. This could include eating a healthier diet, getting more exercise and following your health care provider’s instructions about medicines you take.

Eat healthy for your heart

What you eat has a big impact on your heart health. When planning your meals and snacks, try to:

  • Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Check food labels and select foods with less sodium. Too much salt can increase your blood pressure.
  • Limit foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol because they can make your cholesterol worse. You can find this information on the nutrition facts label.
  • Cook at home more often. When possible, choose foods that are low in sodium or have no salt added. Limit sauces, mixes and instant products, including flavored rice and ready-made pasta.

Make physical activity part of your daily life

Get moving

Those who experience obesity (body mass index – BMI) ≥30 or who are overweight (BMI 25-29.9) can increase the risk for heart disease and stroke. Know your BMI. To keep healthy, make physical activity part of your daily life. This will also help you fight high blood pressure and cholesterol. Try to fit in 2.5 hours of moderate exercise every week. For people who sit a lot, or who are sedentary, walking can be a good start.

Quit smoking

Smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease and stroke. If you’re a smoker, set a date to quit and ask your healthcare provider if you need help. Also avoid secondhand smoke and support smoke-free policies in your community.

Get more information

Use of Aspirin to Prevent Cardiovascular Disease | Cardiology | JAMA | JAMA Network

Prevent Stroke: What You Can Do | cdc.gov

May is National Stroke Awareness Month

By Hans Petersen is senior writer/editor for Digital Media, VHA Office of Communications. An Air Force Veteran, Hans also served two years in the Peace Corps and worked for 20 years in broadcasting before joining VA.

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Published on May. 10, 2022

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  1. Robert G. Bauman May 19, 2022 at 10:16 am

    I have Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and my Monitor showed I went into A-Fib on December 10, 2021 for 3 Hours between 1 and 3 am. I was notified of the condition about 2 weeks after the fact and told if I had another event I could suffer a Severe Stroke.
    Then, I was scheduled to go to the VA for a Cardiac Device Check, I have both a Pacemaker and Defibrillator, and an EKG on January 26, 2022, a MONTH later!!
    My Cardiologist had no answers and said I needed more testing. I went in for a Blood Test, March 8, 2022 and, again nothing was found, I was put on blood thinners and scheduled for a “Stress Test” on March 18, 2022. It was rescheduled for March 25, 2022, where I was given an Injection and told to go “SIT DOWN” for 45 minutes! There is NO STRESS in sitting in a chair for 45-minutes!! The results showed NOTHING.
    My Echo Test was then Scheduled for April 25, 2022, another month gone to waste, and my Appointment to again see my Cardiologist was rescheduled June 20, 2022.
    Through 6 long months of useless Testing to avoid a Severe Stroke and only given blood thinners, I am stunned that these people are so busy they can’t take care of Emergency Situations more quickly.
    Is it possible that I be assigned a “Civilian” Hospital the Specializes in Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy and is able to resolve this issue in a short time before I suffer a Severe Stroke???

    • Jessica Castellon May 20, 2022 at 1:12 pm

      Robert, talk to your pcm to get a referral for community care to see a cardiologist outside the VA. I have a leaky valve so I’m always requesting my pcm to put a consult to have an echo and make sure everything hasn’t gotten worse. If I leave it all up to my pcm, I would not have seen a cardiologist or have all those test done to my heart. You need to be proactive and if your pcm is not listening to you then call the patient advocate, preferably talk to them in person, they will get you in fast.

  2. Opal Summers May 12, 2022 at 8:14 pm

    I recently came off low dose asprin.
    It seems it is not as highly recomended as it once was.???

    Is this site for surviving spouses as well as retirees?

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