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When speaking with your patients about how to decrease their risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease, lifestyle changes are an important aspect but can be difficult to tackle. One place to start is the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple 7: encouraging patients to be active and eat better to lose weight, stop smoking, and control their cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar.

Exercise and healthy eating can positively impact both your patient’s weight and cardiovascular risk. Adults should aim for 150 minutes of moderate physical activity each week. The Million Hearts® program has fact sheets and resources for both you and your patients to help them meet these guidelines in a way that best suits their health and lifestyle. Diets should focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean meats while avoiding sweetened, processed, and fatty foods. The American Heart Association offers recipes and food guidelines.

Stopping smoking can be a very difficult lifestyle change. While cessation interventions start at the appointment, your patients need additional support when they are at work and home. The American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society offer online and phone-based support and free resources.

When lifestyle changes aren’t enough to reduce cardiovascular risk, it is your place to prescribe the appropriate medication for hypertension, hyperlipidemia and hyperglycemia. But issues with health literacy and other patient barriers can reduce their adherence to medication regimens. Teach-back and Motivational Interviewing are methods you and your clinical staff can use to ensure that your patients understand how to take their medication properly and that you understand the barriers that your patients may face. Other tools to improve medication adherence can be found on the Million Hearts® site.

More resources, including our ABCS Toolkit for cardiac health, can be found on our Web site.