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How Can Atherosclerosis Be Prevented or Delayed?

Taking action to control your risk factors can help prevent or delay atherosclerosis and its related diseases. Your risk for atherosclerosis increases with the number of risk factors you have.

One step you can take is to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Following a healthy diet is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

A healthy diet includes a variety of fruits and vegetables (including beans and peas). It also includes whole grains, lean meats, poultry without skin, seafood, and fat-free or low-fat milk and dairy products. A healthy diet is low in sodium (salt), added sugar, solid fats, and refined grains.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute's (NHLBI's) Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes (TLC) and Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) are two programs that promote healthy eating.

If you're overweight or obese, work with your doctor to create a reasonable weight-loss plan. Controlling your weight helps you control atherosclerosis risk factors.

Be as physically active as you can. Physical activity can improve your fitness level and your health. Ask your doctor what types and amounts of activity are safe for you.

For more information about physical activity, go to the Diseases and Conditions Index (DCI) Physical Activity and Your Heart article and the NHLBI's "Your Guide to Physical Activity and Your Heart."

If you smoke, quit. Smoking can damage and tighten blood vessels and raise your risk for atherosclerosis. Talk with your doctor about programs and products that can help you quit. Also, try to avoid secondhand smoke.

For more information about quitting smoking, go to the DCI Smoking and Your Heart article and the NHLBI's "Your Guide to a Healthy Heart."

Know your family history of atherosclerosis. If you or someone in your family has an atherosclerosis-related disease, be sure to tell your doctor.

If lifestyle changes aren't enough, your doctor may prescribe medicines to control your atherosclerosis risk factors. Take all of your medicines as your doctor advises.

For more information about lifestyle changes and medicines, go to "How Is Atherosclerosis Treated?"

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August 4, 2014