Here’s what you can do

to reduce the risk of a major disability or even death due to vascular disease:

1. Do not smoke or use any tobacco products

Smoking is a major cause of heart disease, cancer, and lung disease and the leading cause of peripheral artery disease (PAD). Studies show that smoking half a pack of cigarettes every day may increase the risk of PAD by 30 to 50%.

By reducing the amount of tobacco products you use, or quitting their use altogether, you can lower your risk for vascular disease. Cutting out tobacco products also lowers blood pressure, improves breathing, and increases blood flow.

2. Adopt healthy eating habits

The foods you eat play a big role in your vascular health, and choosing the right foods can significantly improve your wellness. Leaner meats, plant-based meals, and high-fiber foods are some of the better options that you should seek when planning and making your meals.

Eating healthy does not have to be expensive or difficult – there are many recipes and ways to prepare your food that are easy and use accessible foods like frozen vegetables, lentils and beans, lean chicken and turkey, and other delicious ingredients. Making the switch to more wholesome foods will help lower blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol, and can make exercise and improving fitness more sustainable.

3. Exercise regularly

Exercise is a great way to decrease symptoms of vascular disease and improve vascular health. Exercise can help to lower blood pressure, improve fitness and breathing, and increase blood flow, among other things.

Ask your care team about an exercise routine that works for you and your health status. Starting small is okay, and every little bit helps in the prevention of new or worsening vascular disease.

4. Reduce high blood pressure

There are several ways to reduce high blood pressure, which is often caused by narrowing blood vessels and a diet high in salty foods. High blood pressure can cause wear and tear on your blood vessels and should be controlled using the right combination of diet, exercise, and medication – talk to your care team about how to reduce your blood pressure.

5. Keep your cholesterol levels under control

Not all cholesterol is bad, but low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad” cholesterol) is a kind that you want to avoid and lower the levels of in your body. You can do this by choosing the right foods, such as olive oil, beans, fatty fish, and whole grains.

You can also reduce your levels of LDL by exercising and managing your weight. Take steps to reduce and quit your consumption of tobacco products and foods such as full-fat dairy products and deep-fried foods.

6. If you are diabetic, control your blood sugar level

Controlling your blood sugar levels as a diabetic patient often revolves around the ABCs: your A1c (average blood glucose level); your blood pressure, and your cholesterol. To control these metrics, try including physical activity in your daily life, in order to maintain healthy weight. Choosing whole foods that don’t contribute to weight gain is important for the same reason.

You should also consider cutting down on or quitting tobacco products, and talking to your care team about any medications that can help you control your blood sugar level.

7. Reduce stress

Stress isn’t just bad for your mental health – it can also hurt your physical health. Constant stress can lead to increased blood pressure, among other physical symptoms – these are bad for your vascular health and your overall well-being.

Reduce stress by taking time to practice mindfulness and ensuring that you get enough rest and self-care time each day. Try to get exercise each day, even if it’s just a quick walk. You might also try keeping a journal of your moods so you can better identify what’s causing you stress day-to-day.

8. Communicate your family health history to your doctor

Sharing details about your family health history can help your provider better understand your own health and predispositions to disease. This is particularly important if a blood relative has or had poor circulation, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or cardiovascular disease.

9. Get regular physical examinations from your doctor

Be sure to visit your health care provider regularly in order to keep an eye on your health and any diseases you are currently managing. A big part of preventing the negative effects of vascular disease is catching any issues early enough to change your behavior and stop disease in its tracks. Be open with your provider about your current lifestyle and be sure to report any symptoms as soon as you notice them.