Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, but heart disease is preventable and controllable.
Every journey begins with one single step, whether it’s climbing a mountain or improving your health to prevent heart disease. Every year, roughly 715,000 Americans have a heart attack. Roughly 600,000 people die from heart disease in the United States each year—that’s 1 out of every 4 deaths.
The term “heart disease” refers to several types of heart conditions. The most common type in the United States is coronary heart disease (also called coronary artery disease), which occurs when a substance called plaque builds up in the arteries that supply blood to the heart. Coronary heart disease can cause heart attack, angina, heart failure, and arrhythmias.
As you begin your journey to better heart health, keep these things in mind:
One Step at a Time
- Don’t become overwhelmed. Every step brings you closer to a healthier heart.
- Don’t do it alone. The journey is more fun when you have company. Ask friends and family to join you.
- Don’t get discouraged. You may not be able to take all of the steps at one time; get a good night’s sleep and start again tomorrow.
- Reward yourself. Find fun things to do to decrease your stress. Round up some colleagues for a lunchtime walk, join a singing group, or have a healthy dinner with your family or friends.
Plan for Prevention
Some health conditions and lifestyle factors can put people at a higher risk for developing heart disease. You can help prevent heart disease by making healthy choices and managing any medical conditions you may have.
- Eat a healthy diet. Choosing healthy meal and snack options can help you avoid heart disease and its complications. Be sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables—adults should have at least 5 servings each day. Eating foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol and high in fiber can help prevent high cholesterol. Limiting salt or sodium in your diet also can lower your blood pressure.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can increase your risk for heart disease. Commit to losing those extra pounds and you’re on your way to a heart-healthy lifestyle.
- Exercise regularly. Physical activity can help you maintain a healthy weight and lower cholesterol and blood pressure. The Surgeon General recommends that adults should engage in moderate-intensity exercise for at least 30 minutes on most days of the week.
- Monitor your blood pressure. High blood pressure often has no symptoms, so be sure to have it checked on a regular basis.
- Don’t smoke. Cigarette smoking greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start. If you do smoke, make the choice to quit.
- Limit alcohol use. Avoid drinking too much alcohol, which can increase your blood pressure. Men should stick to no more than two drinks per day, and women to no more than one.
- Have your cholesterol checked. Your health care provider should test your cholesterol levels at least once every 5 years.
- Manage your diabetes. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels closely, and talk with your doctor about treatment options.
- Take your medicine. If you’re taking medication to treat high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, follow your doctor’s instructions carefully. Always ask questions if you don’t understand something.