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Stop a second heart attack or stroke in its tracks

If you’ve suffered a stroke or heart attack, thoughts of having a second one can be frightening. Perhaps you’ve been avoiding favorite physical activities, like running around with your kids, hiking with friends or even taking the dog for long walks.

But you don’t have to live in fear. While you can’t entirely prevent a heart attack or stroke from recurring, you can take measures to reduce your risk. In 2006, the American Heart Association (AHA) and the American College of Cardiology (ACC) teamed up to create new prevention guidelines. The reason for the revamp? Studies prove that by managing risk factors, you can increase your chances of survival, reduce the risk of a second attack, decrease the need for invasive procedures (such as angioplasty and bypass surgery) and improve your quality of life.

If you’ve had a heart attack or a stroke or have chronic coronary artery disease, talk to your healthcare provider about how you can best reach the following recommended AHA-ACC goals and reduce your risk:

  • Stop smoking. Using smoking?cessation aids and getting a significant other to quit can help.
  • Lower your blood pressure. Keep it below 140/90 mm Hg or, if you have diabetes or chronic kidney disease, below 130/80 mm Hg. Dietary changes, such as limiting sodium, can bring numbers down, but you may need medication.
  • Lower bad cholesterol. LDL, the bad cholesterol, levels should be kept between 100 to 70 mg/dL. Cutting back on saturated fats and exercising can help. Your doctor may also prescribe medication, such as statins, to lower numbers.
  • Exercise daily. Try to exercise for at least 30 to 60 minutes a day, for a minimum of five days a week. Breaking up exercise into more manageable 10-minute routines can help you find time for fitness. Make sure your healthcare provider gives your routine the OK.
  • Normalize body mass index (BMI). Aim for a BMI of 18.5 to 24.9. Men should have a waist circumference of less than 40 inches, women less than 35 inches.
  • Control blood sugar. The guidelines recommend keeping HbA1c levels at less than 7 percent. The HbA1c test measures average amounts of sugar in your blood over the past two to three months.