Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. It is also a major cause of disability. There are many things that can increase your risk of heart disease. They are called risk factors. Some of them you can’t control, but there are many that you can. Learning about them can lower your risk of heart disease.
5 tips to prevent heart disease
1. Don’t smoke or use tobacco
One of the best things you can do for your heart is to quit smoking or using smokeless tobacco. Even if you don’t smoke, avoid secondhand smoke.
The chemicals in tobacco can damage your heart and blood vessels. Cigarette smoke reduces oxygen in the blood, which increases blood pressure and heart rate because the heart has to work harder to deliver enough oxygen to the body and brain.
2. Get moving: try to get at least 30 to 60 minutes of activity a day.
Regular, daily physical activity can reduce the risk of heart disease. Physical activity helps you control your weight. It also reduces the likelihood of other conditions that can put a strain on the heart, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.
If you haven’t been physically active for a while, you may have to move slowly to achieve these goals. However, you should try to do at least the following:
- 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic exercise, such as brisk walking.
- 75 minutes per week of intense aerobic activity, such as running
- Two or more muscle-strengthening sessions per week
3. Get regular medical checkups
High blood pressure and high cholesterol can damage your heart and blood vessels. But without getting tested, you probably won’t know if you have these conditions. Regular screenings can tell you what your numbers are and whether you need to take action.
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Regular blood pressure screening usually begins in childhood. Starting at age 18, you should have your blood pressure checked at least once every two years to screen for high blood pressure as a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
If you are between the ages of 18 and 39 and have risk factors for high blood pressure, you will probably be tested once a year. People over 40 also have their blood pressure tested annually.
Adults generally have their cholesterol measured at least once every four to six years. Cholesterol checks usually begin in your 20s, although earlier testing may be recommended if you have other risk factors, such as a family history of early-onset heart disease.
Screening for type 2 diabetes
Diabetes is a risk factor for heart disease. If you have risk factors for diabetes, such as being overweight or having a family history of diabetes, your health care provider may recommend early screening tests. Otherwise, it is recommended that you be screened starting at age 45, and rescreened every three years.
4. Maintain a healthy weight
Being overweight, especially in the middle of the body, increases the risk of heart disease. Excess weight can lead to conditions that increase the likelihood of developing heart disease, including high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.
If we must all control these risk factors in order to avoid cardiovascular disease, those who should be even more closely monitored, with periodic check-ups by a specialist, are those who have a family history that may alert to a possible difficulty, such as a first-degree male relative (father or brother) who has suffered a heart attack before the age of 55 or a first-degree female relative (mother or sister) who has suffered a heart attack before the age of 65.
Prevention in women
All the recommendations related to prevention given by cardiovascular health specialists are addressed to men and women, since both can develop cardiovascular disease. The only difference is that women may be affected later, as they are partially protected by physiological estrogens until menopause.
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