Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the Harvard Medical School



You can help to prevent atherosclerosis by changing your risk factors for the illness. You should practice a lifestyle that promotes good circulation and combats atherosclerosis:

  • Avoid cigarette smoking. If you smoke, it is essential that you quit.

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity, especially a concentration of body fat around the waist, has been linked to unhealthy levels of HDL cholesterol and triglycerides.

  • Eat a healthy diet that is rich in vegetables and fruits. Avoid saturated and trans fats. Use monounsaturated (olive) and polyunsaturated (sunflower, safflower, peanut, canola) oils for cooking. Dietary protein should come primarily from fish and plant sources (soy, beans, legumes).

  • Exercise regularly.

  • Control high blood pressure. You may have to take medication to do this. If you have never been diagnosed with high blood pressure, you should have it checked every two years.

  • If you have diabetes, you need to work even harder on controlling weight, exercising more, lowering LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and keeping blood pressure less than 130/85.

  • If you do not have diabetes, you should have a fasting blood sugar test every few years if you have risk factors for diabetes (being overweight, having high blood pressure or high cholesterol) starting at age 45.

  • Work with your doctor to maintain proper cholesterol levels. If you have never been diagnosed with cholesterol problems, you should have your cholesterol checked every five years starting at age 20.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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