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The American Heart Association assembled a committee of experts in 2010 to come up with a plan to reduce heart disease in the US. The result? A strategy that outlines 7 key areas that people can focus on to prevent cardiovascular disease.

This plan, along with advances in endovascular procedures, provides people with a blueprint that will unlock a longer lifespan.So what are the essentials a person should know about in order to maintain good heart health and keep their tickers ticking? Here are the 7 aspects that experts link to good heart health.

  1. Exercise still tops the list.

Considered by many to be the magic pill that will improve almost every aspect of one’s life and well-being. Regular exercise is especially known for its ability to strengthen and improve one’s heart health. Exercise reduces blood pressure and lowers inflammation, among many other benefits.

We all know we should be doing it. But just how much exercise do you need to reap the benefits? Only 150 minutes of exercise a week, according to the CDC. That breaks down to about 21 minutes per day, which is an achievable number for many.

  1. Eat the right things.

With so much conflicting information about food. And with food fads coming and going, improving one’s diet might seem a tall ask. But what most nutritionists agree on is that the more plant-based foods you eat, the better. Build your diet around vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and fruits, and it will be hard to go wrong.

After adding as much as you can from the foods in this “good” category, the second step? Minimize foods that you know you should avoid. Junk food, foods high in sugar, and overly processed.

  1. Lower your blood pressure.

Your blood pressure affects your heart health. The higher your numbers, the more strain you are putting on your arteries. If your blood pressure is higher than 120 over 80, it’s time to make lowering your blood pressure a focus. The following are the most advocated ways to lower your blood pressure.

  • Shed extra weight.
  • Get an exercise routine going.
  • Reduce salt and sugar in your diet.
  • Limit the amount of alcohol you drink.
  1. Lower your cholesterol levels.

Having high cholesterol levels may put you at greater risk of heart disease. While this alone does not dictate that you will have heart disease. But this combined with other factors play a role in how at risk you are.

The good news is that cholesterol can be controlled by eating certain foods. For example, fatty fish, walnuts, soybeans, apples, citrus fruits, and vegetables are all good choices.

  1. Keep an eye on your blood sugar levels.

This aspect is not as well-known nor talked about as often in relation to heart health. But checking your blood sugar levels is another way to monitor your heart health. When your blood sugar levels fall outside of a normal range? This is a red flag that you are placing an additional strain on your heart.

Your blood sugar levels may spike if you are overweight, drinking too much alcohol or caffeine. Taking certain medications and not getting enough sleep are also common culprits. So, when you go in to get your cholesterol numbers monitored, also check on your blood sugar levels.

  1. Stay at a healthy weight.

Being excessively overweight can contribute to various conditions that place a strain on one’s heart. And places you at higher risk of cardiovascular disease. In fact, being obese is one of the leading causes of cardiovascular-related deaths.

Want to figure out if your weight places you in an at-risk category? Check out this calculator provided by the Harvard Medical School.

  1. Quit smoking.

Is there one move you can make immediately that will lower your heart disease risk by 50 percent? Quit smoking. Smoking is a common cause of heart-related disease. Whether a person smokes or not is one of the most important factors that determines a person’s heart health. Of course, giving up cigarettes is a simple but not easy task. But determining that it is worth it is one of the best choices you can make for your health and to reduce your chances of death and disease.

The good news about all of these areas that are connected to cardiovascular wellness? Personal choice and making appropriate lifestyle changes are all it takes to protect our heart health.