What's Your Goal?
Blood pressure readings vary, but generally you want to aim for a blood pressure score below 130/80 (read as "130 over 80"). Have your blood pressure checked at least four times yearly or at regular diabetes check-ups. Consider using a blood pressure monitor at home to check your blood pressure more often.
How Can You Improve Your Blood Pressure?
All the things that are good for your heart — eating a low-salt diet, getting regular exercise, limiting alcohol, quitting smoking, and controlling your weight — will help you control your blood pressure. When lifestyle changes aren't enough to control high blood pressure, medications can help lower blood pressure.
ABCs: Cholesterol and Diabetes
The wrong kinds of fats in your blood can build up in your arteries. This can increase your risk for heart disease and stroke. Of major concern is too much of the "bad" type of cholesterol called LDL cholesterol.
Other culprits are:
- High levels of triglycerides, another kind of fat in your blood
- Not enough of the "good" cholesterol called HDL, which improves heart health by removing the build-up of "bad" cholesterol
Why Does Cholesterol Matter?
Controlling your LDL cholesterol can reduce your risk of heart disease by 20% to 50%.
What's Your Cholesterol Goal?
Have your cholesterol checked at least once a year. Aim for these scores:
- LDL below 100. Some experts advise a goal below 70 if you already have heart disease.
- HDL above 50 for women, and above 40 for men
- Triglycerides lower than 150
How Can You Improve Your Cholesterol?
You can help lower your cholesterol, and reduce your risk of heart disease, by making changes to your diet and activities. Eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables and foods that are low in saturated and trans fat and cholesterol, and high in whole-grain fiber. Lose weight if you need to, and get regular exercise. If that's not enough to get your cholesterol to healthy levels, your doctor may prescribe medication to reach your goal.
Improve Your ABCs with Heart-Healthy Living
Your doctor will probably recommend that you eat well and exercise regularly to help manage your ABCs. These tips can help you get there:
- Monitor Glucose: Keep clear, consistent records of blood sugar levels, so you can easily see how diet, exercise, and any medications affect your blood glucose readings.
- Control Weight: If you're overweight, lose weight by changing your diet. Getting more exercise helps control A1c, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels.
- Get Moving: Do 30 to 60 minutes of combined aerobic and strength training exercises such as brisk walking or lifting weights on most days.
- Eat Healthy: Fill your plate with lots of fruits and vegetables. Choose foods low in salt and sugar. Eat plenty of fiber from fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like brown rice and oatmeal. Choose heart-healthy fats such as those found in olive and canola oil, fatty fish, nuts, and avocados. Drink alcohol only in moderation.
- Take Medications as Prescribed: Take medications as directed, even when you feel healthy.
- Quit Smoking: If you're a smoker, get help to quit. Try a smoking cessation program to boost your chance of success.
- Get Support: Ask your family and friends to help you stay committed to a heart-healthy lifestyle.