It may shock you to learn that heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. The good news? Heart disease is preventable and controllable.

The term “heart disease” actually encompasses several types of heart conditions; in the United States the most common is coronary heart disease. Also called coronary artery disease, this condition occurs when plaque builds up on the arteries responsible for supplying blood to the heart, and can cause heart attack, angina, arrhythmias and heart failure.

Plan for Prevention

Taking small steps all year long can help bring you closer to great heart health.

  • Eat a healthy diet. Incorporate plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables into your diet—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. Lower your blood pressure by limiting salt or sodium in your diet.
  • Maintain a healthy weight. Your risk for heart disease is much higher if you are overweight or obese. To determine whether your weight is in a healthy range, doctors will often calculate a number called the body mass index (BMI). Doctors sometimes also use waist and hip measurements to measure a person’s body fat.
  • Exercise often. Being physically activity can help you maintain a healthy weight, while lowering your 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 check it on a regular basis. You can take your blood pressure at home, a pharmacy, or at your doctor’s office.
  • Don’t smoke.Smoking cigarette greatly increases your risk for heart disease. If you don’t smoke, don’t start – and if you do smoke, quit as soon as possible. Your healthcare provider can suggest ways to help you quit.
  • Limit alcohol use. Drinking too much alcohol 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 medical provider should test your cholesterol levels at least once every five years. Ask your doctor about this simple blood test.
  • Manage your diabetes. If you have diabetes, monitor your blood sugar levels closely, and maintain an open line of communication 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. If you are confused about something, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

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