Heart Disease Prevention
By being aware of your risk factors for heart disease, monitoring your health, and knowing your family's medical history, you can help prevent heart disease. If you have high cholesterol, diabetes, or high blood pressure, closely monitoring these conditions is also important. Lifestyle changes and possibly taking medication can also help you avoid heart disease.
Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the United States. More than 910,000 Americans die of cardiovascular diseases each year, which amounts to one death every 35 seconds. In addition, more than 13 million people are currently living with heart disease. Coronary heart disease is a leading cause of premature, permanent disability in the U.S. workforce. Fortunately, in most cases, heart disease can be prevented, and it is not as hard as most people think.
The steps for effective heart disease prevention involve:
- Knowing your heart disease risk factors
- Monitoring your health
- Making lifestyle changes
- Possibly taking medication.
The main cause of heart disease (also called coronary artery disease, or just CAD) is the thickening and hardening of the inside walls of arteries. This is called atherosclerosis. Some hardening of the arteries occurs normally as you grow older, but certain risk factors can increase the rate at which atherosclerosis develops.
Preventing heart disease begins with knowing which risk factors you have and then taking action to reduce that risk. Remember, your chances of developing coronary heart disease increase with the number of risk factors you have.
Risk factors for heart disease include:
- Age (beginning at age 45 for men, age 55 for women)
- High cholesterol levels, also known as hypercholesterolemia (see Cholesterol and Heart Disease)
- High blood pressure, also known as hypertension (see Effects of High Blood Pressure)
- Diabetes (see Diabetes and Heart Disease)
- Being overweight or obese (see Obesity and Heart Disease; use the BMI Calculator to find your ideal weight)
- Not exercising
- Smoking cigarettes
- Having close relatives with heart disease at younger ages (diagnosed before age 55 in a father or brother; diagnosed before age 65 in a mother or sister).