Here are some ways you can reduce your risk of heart disease.
Quit smoking. Smokers have more than twice the risk for heart attack as nonsmokers and are much more likely to die if they suffer a heart attack. If you smoke, quit. Better yet, never start smoking at all.
Improve cholesterol levels. The risk for heart disease increases as your total amount of cholesterol increases. A total cholesterol level over 200, a HDL, or "good" cholesterol level under 40, or a LDL, or "bad" cholesterol level over 160 indicates an increased risk for heart disease. Of course, interpretation of cholesterol values must be individualized, taking into account all of your risk factors for heart disease. A diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat will lower cholesterol levels and reduce your risk for heart disease.
Control high blood pressure. Over 50 million people in the U.S. have hypertension, or high blood pressure, making it the most common heart disease risk factor. One in four adults has systolic blood pressure (the upper number) over 140, and/or diastolic blood pressure (the lower number) over 90, which is the definition of hypertension. Like cholesterol, blood pressure interpretation should be individualized, taking into account your entire risk profile. If treatment is warranted, today's blood pressure medications are effective, safe, and easy to take.
Get active. Many of us lead sedentary lives, exercising infrequently or not at all. People who don't exercise have higher rates of death and heart disease compared to people who perform even mild to moderate amounts of physical activity. Even leisure-time activities like gardening or walking can lower your risk of heart disease.
Eat right. Eat a heart-healthy diet low in fat and cholesterol. Try to increase the amounts of vitamins you eat, especially antioxidants, which have been proven to lower your risk for heart disease.
Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Excess weight puts significant strain on your heart and worsens several other heart disease risk factors such as diabetes. Researchers now know that obesity itself increases heart disease risk. By eating right and exercising, you can lose weight and reduce your risk of heart disease.
Manage stress and anger. Poorly controlled stress and anger can lead to heart attacks and strokes. Use stress and anger management techniques to lower your risk.
Control diabetes. If not properly controlled, diabetes can lead to significant heart damage including heart attacks and death.