For many people, reducing the risk of heart disease involves making major changes in the way they live. It may mean changing the habits of a lifetime. Even people who are not overweight may need to change their diets to reduce their cholesterol levels. And they may need to make room in their schedules for exercise and other physical activity.
When patients have been diagnosed with heart disease or are at increased risk of developing heart disease, the primary goal of management is usually to reduce LDL cholesterol levels.
Even though artery-clogging LDL often takes decades to reach dangerous levels, reducing LDL, whether by diet and exercise alone or with the addition of cholesterol-lowering medicine, quickly reduces the risk of disease progression.
Although drugs alone can often bring cholesterol down to normal levels, diet and exercise provide benefits that drugs don't: They'll lower blood pressure, reduce weight, and lower the risk of developing diabetes.
A Healthier Diet and a Healthier Weight
Often, the greatest challenge to achieving a heart-healthy lifestyle is learning to eat the right foods. People have become accustomed to a diet rich in fat, cholesterol, and empty calories and low in the vegetables, fruits, fiber, and nutrients we really need. By making smarter food choices and setting healthy dietary goals, it is possible to take off excess weight. And it isn't necessary to get down to an "ideal weight" to improve one's health. A weight reduction of just 10 percent will significantly reduce risk of heart disease and other obesity-related illnesses.