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How to Wreck Your Heart

What not to do for your heart's health.

3. Just accept that it’s in your genes. continued...

“But heart disease isn’t just what you inherit. It’s also what you do about it,” Goldberg tells WebMD. You can still beat the odds and dramatically lower your risks by doing other heart-friendly things.

For example, lowering your LDL (that’s the bad form of cholesterol) by 50% will cut your risks in half, Goldberg says.

And a 1998 study from the Journal of the American Medical Association showed that taking a cholesterol-lowering statin drug can help people with a family history of heart disease lower their risk to less than someone with zero family history. That means in some cases, you could erase your risk.

But you can only be proactive if you actually know whether heart disease or stroke runs in your family. Take time to find out your family’s health history. You might be surprised by what you learn.

Bottom line: There’s no need to let your family history determine your destiny.

 

4. Skip your checkup.

When you don’t get checked out regularly by a doctor, you might not realize if you have some of the silent heart risk factors that are harder to detect, says Fonarow, who directs the Ahmanson-UCLA Cardiomyopathy Center.

Some of the most common, symptom-free cardiovascular issues are also some of the most easily treated, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

If the cost of a checkup is holding you back, you may have more options than you think. Federally funded health centers allow patients to pay what they can. And local hospitals often offer information about clinics that accept sliding scale payments. The new health care law has provisions for preventive care services, and coverage may be available. Call your local health department for leads.

5. Be a couch potato.

“Being sedentary increases heart risks. Physical activity simply translates to living longer,” Fonarow says.

Exercise helps lower blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels, encourages weight loss, benefits blood vessel function, and cuts stress, among other things.

Even if you haven’t been active for the last 20 years, it’s never too late to make an impact with exercise. Just be sure to talk to a doctor before you start a new fitness regimen. Tell your doctor exactly what you plan to do, or ask his or her advice, if you're looking for suggestions.

6. Stop taking your medications.

If you stop taking your heart medications, you may be heading for a cardiac catastrophe.

“It’s only when you’re struck with a heart attack or stroke that many people think, ‘Oh, I should really keep taking my statin drug to lower my cholesterol,’” Fonarow says. He advises looking at heart medications as “insurance” against heart attack and stroke.  Never stop a heart medication or adjust the dosage without first speaking with your doctor.

 

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