Heart disease, including stroke, is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Every year, more than one million Americans suffer a heart attack and approximately 600,000 die from heart disease — that’s one out of every four deaths.
The situation is alarming, but there’s good news: heart disease is preventable and controllable. Anyone can start reducing their risk of heart disease by taking small steps to bring themselves closer to a healthy heart.
- Quit smoking. Smokers are at a greater risk for heart disease than nonsmokers and are much more likely to die if they suffer a heart attack.
- Improve cholesterol levels. There are two types of cholesterol: good cholesterol – High-Density Lipoprotein (HDL) – and bad cholesterol – Low-Density Lipoprotein (LDL). Too much of one— or not enough of the other — can put you at risk for coronary heart disease, heart attack, or stroke.
- Control high blood pressure. More than 50 million people in the U.S. have high blood pressure, making it the most common heart disease risk factor.
- Be active. Many of us lead sedentary lives, exercising infrequently or not at all. But even 20 minutes a day of moderate-intensity aerobic activity can help lower your risk.
- Eat right. Being careful about what you eat — and what you don’t eat — can help lower bad cholesterol, and control blood pressure and blood sugar levels. .
- 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. By eating right and exercising, you can lose weight and reduce your risk of heart disease.
- Control diabetes. If not properly controlled, diabetes can lead to significant heart damage including heart attacks and death.
One Step at a Time
As you begin your journey to a healthier heart, keep these things in mind:
- Don’t become overwhelmed. Every step you take brings you closer to a healthier heart.
- Don’t go it alone. The journey is more fun when you have company; ask friends and family to join you.
- Don’t get discouraged. This prescription for a healthy heart may seem daunting at first, but by taking small steps each day to achieve your goal.
- 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 family or friends.
If you want to make a difference in your community, spread the word about strategies for preventing heart disease and encourage people to live heart healthy lives.