Stroke Rehabilitation: Tips for a Heart-Healthy Lifestyle
The key to living a heart-healthy lifestyle is balancing your intake of calories with the calories that you burn off through exercise.
It’s a simple equation, but one that’s easily forgotten in today’s fast-paced, fast-food lifestyle. Still, there’s an undeniable link between foods high in fat and increased cholesterol, the waxy substance that builds up in your arteries increasing your risk for a blood clot and heart attack or stroke. Some factors, such as genetics, also play a role in heart disease and stroke.
Any eating plan should be based on MyPyramid, the United States Department of Agriculture’s guide to a balanced diet. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and minerals to keep your body healthy and are packed with phytochemicals that help prevent heart disease and several forms of cancer.
The good news is, it’s never too late to start making changes in your diet and exercise that could help reduce your risk of a first-time or a recurring stroke. Although high blood pressure usually cannot be cured, it can be controlled and/or prevented.
As with any change in diet and exercise, be sure to consult your physician.
If you’re in one of the high-risk groups for heart attack or stroke, here are some other tips:
Lose weight: This is especially important if you are overweight and if you tend to gain weight around your waist rather than in your hips and thighs. Losing just 10 pounds can lower your blood pressure.
Become more physically active: Keep your heart strong. Exercise regularly. Thirty to 45 minutes of brisk walking three to five times a week will help lower your blood pressure (and will also help you lose weight). Record your activities and reward yourself at special milestones. Nothing motivates like success!
Moderate alcohol use: Limit your alcohol intake to two drinks or less per day.
Cut down on salt intake: Don’t put the salt shaker on the table, and limit ready-mixed sauces and seasonings, frozen dinners, canned soups and salad dressings, which are usually packed with sodium. Eat lots of fresh or frozen fruits or vegetables that have very little sodium, and look for products labeled “low sodium” (containing less than 140 milligrams of sodium per serving). Always measure the salt in recipes and use half of what is called for.
Stop smoking: Smoking increases your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Doctor’s orders. Always follow your doctor’s advice. Take your medicine if your doctor decides you need it to lower your blood pressure. Have your blood pressure checked often.
Stick with it: Managing high blood pressure is a lifetime undertaking. You can’t stop your program just because you feel good. Remember, this is a silent disease – it damages the heart and blood vessels without ever causing pain.
Have your blood pressure checked regularly – and keep your heart healthy.
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