Buckle your seat belt. Wear a bicycle helmet. Don't text while driving. Safety is No Accident is the theme of this year's National Public Health Week, April 4-10.

"Vascular wellness doesn't occur by accident, either" said Dr. Steve Leers, a member of the Society for Vascular Surgery®. "It takes a concerted effort to maximize your health and minimize the chance of developing vascular diseases such as hypertension (high blood pressure) or high cholesterol that can lead to stroke, heart attack, or amputation."

Eating right and exercising 30 minutes daily are important prevention techniques. With type 2 diabetes on the increase, Americans are encouraged to adopt healthy, pro-active lifestyles.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and United States Department of Health and Human Services' (HHS) 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans suggest a healthy diet of:

- fruits and vegetables
- whole grains
- low-fat milk products
- lean meats, beans, eggs, nuts
- fish
- foods low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugar.

The USDA Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Eating Plan encourages Americans to limit their sodium intake in order to lower high blood pressure (hypertension), a risk factor for carotid artery disease or stroke.

As the fourth leading cause of death in America, stroke killed 137,000 Americans last year according to 2010 National Vital Statistics. The American Stroke Association estimated that Americans paid $73.7 billion for stroke-related medical costs and disability in 2010. As a vascular surgeon, Dr. Leers encourages Americans to control their blood pressure and cholesterol with healthy food choices. In addition, he suggests:

- moderate physical activity such as walking 30 minutes daily
- not smoking
- a healthy body weight.

An annual cholesterol blood test is recommended for persons who are at-risk of high cholesterol. If needed, medications are available to help lower cholesterol.

Society for Vascular Surgery

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