- Eat a heart-healthy diet. Consistently eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and low-fat dairy products can help protect your heart. Legumes, low-fat sources of protein and certain types of fish also can reduce your risk of heart disease. A heart healthy diet also includes limiting saturated, polyunsaturated, monounsaturated and trans fat. Saturated fat and trans fat increase the risk of coronary artery disease by raising blood cholesterol levels. Major sources of saturated fat include beef, butter, cheese, milk, and coconut and palm oils. Sources of trans fat include deep-fried fast foods, bakery products, packaged snack foods, margarines and crackers. Heart-healthy eating isn't all about cutting back, though. A heart healthy diet includes generous servings of fruits and vegetables, and includes adding good fats to the diet, such as Omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat. Studies show that adding Omega-3 fatty acids to the diet may decrease your risk of heart attack, protect against irregular heartbeats and lower blood pressure. Some fish are a good natural source of omega-3s. Omega-3s are present in smaller amounts in flaxseed oil, walnut oil, soybean oil and canola oil, and they can also be found in supplements. Following a heart-healthy diet also means drinking alcohol only in moderation — no more than two drinks a day for men, one a day for women. At that moderate level, alcohol can have a protective effect on your heart. Above that, it becomes a health hazard.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight raises your risk for heart disease. Calculate your Body Mass Index (BMI) to see if you are at a healthy weight. Eat a healthy diet and exercise at a moderate intensity for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. Start by adding more fruits, vegetables, and whole grains to your diet. Take a brisk walk on your lunch break or take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Exercise. You already know that physical activity is good for you. But you may not realize just how good it is for you Regularly participating in moderately vigorous physical activity can reduce your risk of fatal heart disease by nearly a 25%. And when you combine physical activity with other lifestyle measures, such as maintaining a healthy weight, the payoff is even greater. Regular physical activity helps prevent heart disease by increasing blood flow to your heart and strengthening your heart's contractions so that your heart pumps more blood with less effort. Physical activity also helps you control your weight and can reduce your chances of developing other conditions that may put a strain on your heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and stress all factors in heart disease. Federal guidelines recommend that you get at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderately intense physical activity most days of the week. However, even shorter amounts offer heart benefits. You don't have to exercise strenuously to achieve benefits, but you can see bigger benefits by increasing the intensity, duration
- Know your blood pressure. Your heart moves blood through your body. If it is hard for your heart to do this, your heart works harder, and your blood pressure will rise. People with high blood pressure often have no symptoms, so have your blood pressure checked every 1 to 2 years. If you have high blood pressure , your doctor may suggest you make some lifestyle changes, such as eating less salt (DASH Eating Plan) and exercising more. Your doctor may also prescribe medicine to help lower your blood pressure.
- Don't smoke. When it comes to heart disease prevention, no amount of smoking is safe. Tobacco smoke contains more than 4,800 chemicals. Many of these can damage your heart and blood vessels, making them more vulnerable to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis). Atherosclerosis can ultimately lead to a heart attack In addition, the nicotine in cigarette smoke makes your heart work harder by constricting blood vessels and increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. Carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke replaces some of the oxygen in your blood. This increases your blood pressure by forcing your heart to work harder to supply enough oxygen. If you smoke, try to quit. If you're having trouble quitting, there are products and programs that can help: Nicotine patches and gums, Support groups, Programs to help you stop smoking, Hypnosis.
- Get tested for diabetes. People with diabetes have high blood glucose (often called blood sugar). People with high blood sugar often have no symptoms, so have your blood sugar checked regularly. Having diabetes raises your chances of getting heart disease. If you have diabetes, your doctor will decide if you need diabetes pills or insulin shots. Your doctor can also help you make a healthy eating and exercise plan.
- Get your cholesterol and triglyceride levels tested. High blood cholesterol can clog your arteries and keep your heart from getting the blood it needs. This can cause a heart attack. Triglycerides are a form of fat in your blood stream. High levels of triglycerides are linked to heart disease in some people. People with high blood cholesterol or high blood triglycerides often have no symptoms, so have your blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels checked regularly. If your cholesterol or triglyceride levels are high, talk to your doctor about what you can do to lower them. You may be able to lower your cholesterol and triglyceride levels by eating better and exercising more. Your doctor may prescribe medication to help lower your cholesterol.
Reducing Your Risk of Heart Disease
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both women and men in the United States.
Worldwide, coronary heart disease kills more than 7 million people each year.
You can reduce your chances of getting heart disease by taking these steps: