How often do you think about your heart? Take a moment now. Can you feel your heart beating in your chest, that rhythmic thump-thumping? Beautiful, isn’t it? It’s with you every moment of every day of your life.

Your beating heart sends blood through every blood vessel in your body. And your heart depends on those same blood vessels to be healthy and clear so it can work well.

If your blood vessels get clogged with plaque (fatty debris caused by high cholesterol), your blood can’t flow well. This means your heart must work much harder, which can lead to heart disease. And if a piece of that fatty plaque breaks off and blocks a blood vessel, it could cause a heart attack or stroke. Yikes.

It’s so much better to take steps now to keep your heart and blood vessels healthy. And you can. These powerful tips can help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke.

Tip 1: Control high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
Having high blood pressure and high cholesterol can put you on the fast track to heart disease and stroke. If you have either, it is crucial to work with your doctor to manage them. If you don’t know if you have them (head’s up…they don’t have any symptoms), talk with your doctor about getting your blood pressure and cholesterol checked.

Tip 2: Avoid smoking (and any type of tobacco).
Smoking raises your blood pressure and damages your heart and blood vessels. We know—tobacco is an addiction and a very hard habit to break. So if you smoke and want to protect your heart, get help with quitting.

Tip 3: Get moving each day.
The best prescription for a strong, healthy heart? Daily exercise. Exercise strengthens your heart and lowers your risk for high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Try to get moving for at least 150 minutes per week or 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week. But if you have certain health conditions or it’s been a while since you were last active, talk with your doctor before starting a new exercise routine.

Tip 4: Eat a heart-healthy diet.
Eat plenty of fruits, veggies, and whole grains each day. Stick with lean or plant-based proteins like beans, nuts, poultry, and fatty, cold-water fish. Limit fatty red meats and full-fat dairy foods. Flat out avoid anything with trans fats. And cut back on added salt and sugar.

Tip 5: Maintain a healthy weight.
Extra weight, especially around your belly, is a risk for your heart. But you don’t have to lose much weight to lower this risk. Losing just 5–10 percent of your weight is all it takes. That’s just 10–20 pounds if you weigh 200 pounds.

We know this probably sounds like a lot, but you don’t have to tackle it all at once. Start with just one step—like getting your blood pressure and cholesterol checked (or under control). Then add the next step. Keep making small changes. Trust us, they’ll add up.