In 2002 the American Heart Association revised its guidelines for preventing heart disease. They include the following:
Improve Cholesterol. People with at least two risk factors, and a 10-year risk for heart disease or stroke of more than 20 percent, should aim for LDL ("bad cholesterol") levels of less than 100 mg/dL. Statins are now used in more cases.
Keep Blood Pressure Low. People in normal health should have a blood pressure reading of 120/80 mm Hg or less. According to new guidelines, Blood pressure readings of 120/80 are considered normal, readings of 140/90 or higher indicate hypertension, and readings in between the two are called pre-hypertension. Patients with diabetes or chronic kidney disease should maintain blood pressure readings of 130/80 mm Hg or less, while those without these complications should have readings be no higher than 140/90 mm Hg.
Exercise. Everyone in normal health should engage in at least moderate physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes on most, if not all, days of the week. [Be sure to check with your physician before starting any exercise plan.]
Healthy Diet. Eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, grains, fish, nuts, legumes, poultry, lean meat and low-fat dairy items. Avoid saturated fats and trans-fatty acids.
Quit Smoking. Avoid exposure to second-hand smoke.
Maintain Weight. Aim for a BMI (body mass index) of 18.5 to 24.9.
Taking Aspirin. People whose risk for heart disease within 10 years is 10 percent or more should take a low-dose aspirin every day, unless they have medical reasons to avoid aspirin.
Control Diabetes. People with diabetes should aim for fast blood glucose levels of less than 110 mg/dL and hemoglobin A1C of less than 7 percent.
Control Atrial Fibrillation. People with atrial fibrillation should use anticoagulants to reduce the risk of blood clots.