Benjamin says the good news is heart disease can be controlled – and even prevented – just by making gradual changes.
A healthy diet, with foods low in sodium and trans-fat like fruits and vegetables, is a big first step. Reducing sodium is critical because about 90 percent of Americans eat more sodium than they should. Generally speaking, black Americans should limit their intake of sodium to no more than 1,500 mg per day.
One way to gauge what you are ingesting is to eat less processed food and read the nutrition labels to see how much sodium is in a serving.
Other preventive measures generally recommended by health professionals include not smoking; limiting alcohol intake to no more than one drink per day for women and two drinks a day for men; managing diabetes and monitoring blood sugar levels; keeping cholesterol levels in the healthy range; monitoring blood pressure and taking calcium and magnesium supplements, minerals shown to be helpful in controlling high blood pressure, one of the strongest risk factors for stroke.
If you already have high blood pressure, follow doctor’s orders, whether it is making dietary changes and getting more exercise or taking prescribed medication regularly and as directed.
The Affordable Care Act makes preventive services such as blood pressure and cholesterol screening, smoking cessation, and obesity counseling more accessible than ever and at no out-of-pocket cost to millions of Americans with private health insurance or on Medicare.
For updates on what benefits the ACA provides, visit www.HealthCare.gov.