High cholesterol can be another burden on your heart. When excess cholesterol, which is a waxy substance, starts to form between layers of artery walls, it is more difficult for your heart to circulate blood. The plaque-like build up can break open and cause clots, which may block an artery to the brain, causing a stroke, or one to the heart, causing a heart attack.
Luckily, controlling and preventing high blood pressure and high cholesterol involves easy-to-make lifestyle modifications that are beneficial for your heart and overall health:
- Eat nutrient-rich foods. Load up on fruits and veggies! Look for breads and cereals that are 100% whole-grain and high in fiber (at least four grams per serving). Select skinless poultry, lean meats, and fish that contains omega 3 fatty acids, such as salmon, trout and herring.
- Limit sodium, saturated and trans fats, and added sugars. Avoid sprinkling your meals with extra salt. Seek out good fats from avocado, eggs, seeds and nuts. Read nutrition labels to identify added hidden sugars with names like dextrose, sucrose and fructose.
- Be active. Not only does physical activity help control your blood pressure, it helps manage your weight, which will strengthen your heart. Try to aim for moderate physical activity, such as brisk walking, for 30 minutes a day at least five times a week.
- Do not smoke. Each cigarette you smoke temporarily increases your blood pressure for many minutes, even after you finish. Smoking has numerous negative effects on your cardiovascular and overall health. Research smoking cessation support groups, classes and hotlines for help.