Heart Disease Home > Preventing Heart Disease
Protecting your heart involves knowing your risk factors for heart disease and using that information to make good health choices. Possible risk factors include having high cholesterol, a family history of early heart disease, and being overweight. Heart disease prevention also means having your blood pressure and cholesterol levels tested regularly. For many people, lifestyle changes (such as exercising more and quitting smoking) are key prevention measures.
There is an old saying that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is definitely the case with heart disease. A person can lower his or her chances of heart disease by understanding heart disease and the risk factors for it, and then using that knowledge to make good decisions to control heart disease risk factors.
Regardless of your age, background, or health status, you can lower your risk of heart disease -- and it doesn't have to be complicated. Protecting your heart can be as simple as taking a brisk walk, whipping up a good vegetable soup, or getting the support you need to maintain a healthy weight.
And the good news: Research shows that people can lower their risk for heart disease enormously -- by as much as 82 percent -- simply by adopting sensible health habits. It's never too late to start protecting your heart health. A recent study shows that among people ages 70 to 90, leading a healthy lifestyle reduces the chances of dying from heart disease by nearly two-thirds.
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.
While certain risk factors cannot be changed, you do have control over many others.
Heart disease risk factors that you cannot control include:
- Family history of early heart disease.
Risk factors for heart disease that you can do something about include:
- High cholesterol, also known as hypercholesterolemia (see Cholesterol and Heart Disease)
- High blood pressure, also known as hypertension (see Effects of High Blood Pressure)
- Cigarette smoking (see Smoking and Heart Disease)
- Diabetes (see Diabetes and Heart Disease)
- Being overweight or obese
- Lack of physical activity.
The more risk factors you have, the greater your chances of developing coronary heart disease.