Following a heart-healthy lifestyle can lower your chances of stroke and help maintain cognitive abilities as you age. Check out these seven steps to help you control the risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

1. Manage your blood pressure

High blood pressure is a major risk factor and has the potential to create a domino effect that can cause heart attack and stroke, toppling your overall health. When blood pressure rises, the first domino falls. But, when your blood pressure stays within a healthy range, you reduce the strain on your heart, arteries and kidneys – helping you stay healthier longer.

STEP BY STEP: Losing weight doesn't happen over night. Shedding pounds involves a committment to health and well-being.

2. Lose weight

Losing excess weight automatically reduces the burden on your heart, lungs, blood vessels and skeleton. Staying active and eating healthier are key components in maintaining a healthy weight.

3. Keep your cholesterol in check

Having high cholesterol contributes to plaque, which can clog arteries and lead to heart disease and stroke. Keeping your cholesterol in check will give your arteries a better chance of remaining clear.

4. Watch your blood sugar

Did you know that many of the carbohydrates in the food you eat are turned into glucose (or blood sugar) that our bodies can use for energy? If your blood sugar isn’t controlled it can lead to the damage of your heart, kidneys, eyes and nerves.

5. Get active

Living an active lifestyle is the gift that keeps on giving. Put simply: if you keep moving and exercising, you’ll increase the length and quality of your life.

A BULB OF BENEFITS: Garlic has been used for years to lower cholesterol levels, but also shows promise for lowering blood sugar.

6. Get well

Eating with your heart and brain in mind is one of the greatest weapons for staving off heart disease and stroke. A healthy diet greatly improves your chances of feeling good and staying healthy for the rest of your life.

7. Quit smoking

Smokers have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. If you’re a smoker, quitting is the number one thing you can do for your health.

While the impact of a healthy lifestyle on brain function becomes more noticeable as you get older, brain health matters at every age. Maintaining a healthy brain and independent living well into your senior years starts with healthy choices in your 20s.