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How Do Cardiovascular & Stroke Risks Relate? - American Heart Month

How do cardiovascular & stroke risks relate? Both heart attack and stroke occur when blood flow is interrupted due to damage in the blood vessels and organ tissue. If blood can't get to the heart, that leads to a heart attack; if blood can't get to the brain, that leads to a stroke. In each case, the top culprit is atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque in the arteries that narrows the space through which blood can flow. If a person has a lot of plaque in her arteries and a blood clot develops, the clot can get stuck, plugging everything up and preventing oxygen and nutrients from getting to heart muscles or brain cells (picture a tapioca bubble getting stuck in one of the tiny straws used to stir coffee). The good news? Although heart disease and stroke account for the vast majority of deaths each year in America, you can do things to lessen your risk:

Eat a healthy diet. Healthy food habits can help you reduce three risk factors for heart disease and stroke - high blood cholesterol, high blood pressure and excess body weight. The American Heart Association Diet and Lifestyle recommendations outlines a healthy diet. It's based on these dietary recommendations, which are easier to follow than you may think.

Use up at least as many calories as you take in. Start by knowing how many calories you should be eating and drinking to maintain your weight. Don't eat more calories than you know you can burn up every day.

Eat a variety of nutritious foods from all the food groups. You may be eating plenty of food, but your body may not be getting the nutrients it needs to be healthy. Nutrient-rich foods have vitamins, minerals, fiber and other nutrients but are lower in calories. To get the nutrients you need, choose foods like vegetables, fruits, whole-grain products and fat-free or low-fat dairy products most often.

Eat fish at least twice a week.

Recent research shows that eating oily fish containing omega-3 fatty acids (for example, salmon, trout, and herring) may help lower your risk of death from coronary artery disease.

Eat less of the nutrient-poor foods. The right number of calories to eat each day is based on your age and physical activity level and whether you're trying to gain, lose or maintain your weight. You could use your daily allotment of calories on a few high-calorie foods and beverages, but you probably wouldn't get the nutrients your body needs to be healthy. Limit foods and beverages high in calories but low in nutrients, and limit how much saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol and sodium. Read labels carefully-the Nutrition Facts panel will tell you how much of those nutrients each food or beverage contains. As you make daily food choices, base your eating pattern on these recommendations.

Exercise every day. Balance the number of calories you eat with those you use up each day to maintain your best weight. Walk or do other physical activities for at least 30 minutes on most or all days. To lose weight, use up more calories than you eat every day. But before you start, check with your doctor.

Know your blood pressure. High blood pressure may not have any symptoms. The only way you will know if your pressure is high is to have it checked. If it is high, you may be able to reduce it with diet and exercise, but if that doesn’t work, medication will likely be necessary. If you take medication, take it exactly as prescribed, not just when you feel like it.

Stop smoking. There are many benefits to giving up tobacco. If you or a loved one need an incentive to quit, check out some of the toxic substances in cigarette smoke.

Contact us for more information on Stroke Awareness! The Health Council of South Florida is available to provide informative presentations on Stroke Awareness in your neighborhood or organization. For more information, please contact Nanette Molina at


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