The heart and blood vessels make up your circulatory system. Your heart is a muscle that pumps blood through the body.

The heart pumps blood carrying oxygen to large blood vessels called arteries and small blood vessels called capillaries. Other blood vessels called veins carry blood back to the heart.

When cholesterol is too high, the insides of large blood vessels become narrowed or clogged. This problem is called atherosclerosis.

Narrowed and clogged vessels make it harder for enough blood to get to all parts of your body. Narrowed blood vessels leave a smaller opening for blood to flow through.

Having narrowed blood vessels is like turning on a garden hose and holding your thumb over the opening. The smaller opening makes the water to shoot out with more pressure. Other factors, such as kidney problems and being overweight also can lead to high blood pressure.

Heart and blood vessel disease can lead to heart attacks and strokes. You can do a lot to prevent heart disease and stroke by:

1. Keeping your blood pressure under control. Below 130/80 is the target for most people. You may control your blood pressure by eating more fruits and vegetables, eating low-salt and low-sodium foods, losing weight if you need to, being physically active, not smoking, and limiting alcoholic drinks.

2. Keeping your cholesterol under control. Have it checked at least once a year. The target for most people for Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol is below 100, High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol should be above 40 for men and above 50 for women. Triglycerides should be below 150.

3. Making physical activity a part of your daily routine. Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week. Check with the doctor to learn what activities are best for you.

4. Making sure the foods you eat are “heart healthy”. Include foods with high fiber such as fruits, vegetables, whole-grain breads, and oats. Cut back on meats, butter, and dairy products. Limit foods with trans fat such as potato chips.

5. Losing weight if you need to. If you are overweight, try to exercise most days of the week. Consult a registered dietitian for help in planning meals and lowering the fat and calorie content of your diet to reach and maintain a healthy weight.

6. If you smoke, quit. Quitting smoking will decrease your risk of heart disease because smoking is a major cause of atherosclerosis or buildup of fatty substances in the arteries which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

7. Check if you need to take an aspirin. Studies have shown that low dose of aspirin everyday can help reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. Consult your doctor before taking a daily dose of aspirin because it is contraindicated if you have a bleeding disorder

For more information on food and nutrition, contact: Dr. Mario V. Capanzana, Director, Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Department of Science and Technology, General Santos Avenue, Bicutan, Taguig City; Tel/Fax Num: 8372934 and 8373164; email:,; FNRI-DOST website:; FNRI Facebook page:; FNRI Twitter account: (FNRI-DOST S & T Media Service: Press Release – CELESTE C. TANCHOCO, DrPH., Retired)


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