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    A healthy lifestyle, including eating right, getting regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight, not smoking, drinking in moderation, not using illegal drugs, controlling hypertension, and managing stress are practices that can reduce the risk of ischemia progressing to a heart attack or stroke.

    A healthy diet includes a variety of foods that are low in fat, especially saturated fat; low in cholesterol; and high in fiber. Plenty of fruits and vegetables should be eaten and sodium should be limited. Fat should comprise no more than 30% of total daily calories. Cholesterol should be limited to about 300 mg and sodium to about 2,400 mg per day.

    Moderate aerobic exercise lasting about 30 minutes four or more times per week is recommended for maximum heart health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine. Three 10-minute exercise periods are also beneficial. If any risk factors are present, a physician's clearance should be obtained before starting exercise.

    Maintaining a desirable body weight is also important. People who are 20% or more over their ideal body weight have an increased risk of developing coronary artery disease or stroke.

    Smoking has many adverse effects on the heart and arteries, so should be avoided. Heart damage caused by smoking can be improved by quitting. Several studies have shown that ex-smokers face the same risk of heart disease as non-smokers within five to ten years of quitting.

    Excessive drinking can increase risk factors for heart disease. Modest consumption of alcohol, however, can actually protect against coronary artery disease. The American Heart Association defines moderate consumption as one ounce of alcohol per day--roughly one cocktail, one 8-ounce glass of wine, or two 12-ounce glasses of beer.

    Commonly used illegal drugs can seriously harm the heart and should never be used. Even stimulants like ephedra and decongestants like pseudoephedrine can be harmful to patients with hypertension or heart disease.

    Treatment should be sought for hypertension. High blood pressure can be completely controlled through lifestyle changes and medication. Stress, which can increase the risk of a heart attack or stroke, should also be managed. While it cannot always be avoided, it can be controlled.

    Source: The Gale Group. Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 3rd ed.";

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